A fraud hotline has been opened by the Land Registry for homeowners who fear their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage.
It will allow owners who believe they may be victims to alert specially trained Registry staff. The Law Society said that it was 'fully supportive' of the measure.
The hotline is the latest in a series of initiatives by the Registry to combat mortgage fraud and follows a drive to encourage absent owners to register a restriction free of charge. The restriction requires a solicitor's certification that any person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
Empty, tenanted or mortgage-free properties are the most vulnerable to fraud, the Registry said. In 2011, of the 52 claims paid out by the Registry for fraud and forgery, 22, adding up to £1.5m, involved properties with an absent owner.
Alasdair Lewis, the Registry's director of legal services, said: 'Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together.'
Jonathan Smithers, chair of the Law Society's property and land law committee, welcomed the initiative. He said: 'We are fully supportive of measures that combat property fraud.'
While the Society had done a lot of work around preventing fraud, early detection is equally important, he said: 'The quicker you can find out about it, the greater the likelihood that you can stop it happening.'
The property fraud line (0300 006 7030) is available from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. An online reporting form is available on the Registry website.