Journalist Max Hastings and his wife Penny have been the subject of a property fraud on a £1.3 million Fulham property. The first Hastings knew of the alleged sale was an email from a solicitor asking if they were aware the property had been sold. 

A sophisticated deception had taken place where the property was legitimately let out by Mrs Hastings to "Mr Kevin Hafter". Hafter moved into the rented property, then put it up for sale with Foxtons, alleging he was acting for Penelope Hastings and providing ID documents for himself and the owner including a passport for Mrs Hastings. We now know that the IDs had been stolen and a female imposter's name changed by deed poll to "Penelope Hastings". An innocent purchaser paid £1.35 million for the property and has been left with nothing to show for it.

The rise of property fraud has seen many others affected in this way and all involved have been duped. The saving grace for Mrs Hastings is that the Land Registry refused to register the transfer and smelt a rat. The government still want to privatise the Land Registry. For all its faults, it is is an independent government body which must remain impartial, as well as vigilant, with security being key for homeowners.

It seems you can't trust or rely on anyone or anything these days and property buyers, solicitors and estate agents must be on high alert.