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Land Registry denies ID fraud risk

'The system is designed to combat fraud'

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The Land Registry has attempted to dampen accusations that its online register leaves home owners open to ID fraud.

It has denied claims by the NO2ID group that it has not paid sufficient attention to security in making mortgage deeds and leases available online, and that they could reveal information which could be used to steal an individual's identity.

The Land Registry insisted that an open register is the norm, and that many other countries had been operating open systems for much longer than the UK.

"The system's transparency is designed to combat fraud; no one can say they own a property that is registered to someone else," it said in a statement.

"There is no evidence that fraud has resulted from the availability of this information from Land Registry. If we receive evidence of a security risk, Land Registry in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office will of course investigate."

For just £3 the online system allows people to download a plan or register for a house they are buying. They can view details of what land is included, ownership and the price paid, by entering the property's postcode into the search engine.

The register, which has been open to the public since 1990, has been available online since 2005. The 2002 Land Registration Act allowed copies of mortgage deeds and leases to be made available, which contain the signatures of homeowners.

There are fears that such information could provide building blocks, which along with publicly available details from other sources, could be used by fraudsters to steal someone's identity.

A spokesperson for the anti-ID cards pressure group, the NO2ID campaign, told GC News: "It is good to see that public documents are being made accessible online. But it is a terrible shame that it is not being done in a safe, consistent and well thought out way.

"Instead a blanket approach is being taken which means that potentially sensitive information could be made available for a paltry £3. In the future, as signatures are used less and less as a form of authentication, perhaps signatures will be less of a target for potential fraud, but we are certainly not there yet."

The Ministry of Justice added: "Government is keen to ensure that publicly available sources of information wherever possible disclose a minimum of personal identity details that could be used by fraudsters for illegal transactions or to assist in compiling details of personal information about individuals."

In 2003 the Home Office set up the Identity Fraud and Steering Committee to work with organisations to identify and implement measures to counter identity fraud.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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