Within the UK, the London property market, which is one of the highest-valued in the world, is being used as a means to obscure wealth or launder funds.
As the Pandora Papers recently demonstrated, money launderers and fraudsters everywhere are hiding their crimes within huge piles of paperwork, using techniques such as presenting fake bank statements to time-poor employees not specialised in fraud detection.
Every day, property and conveyancing services businesses are getting buried under huge volumes of paperwork, slowing down processes, frustrating customers and making it harder than ever to keep track of the truth.
This poses all sorts of problems for businesses that go beyond the immediate financial risk of fraud. Discrepancies in data can have profound implications – and even lead to someone having their own house sold from under them.
Asking for paper copies of bank statements from several different accounts is cumbersome, slow, puts businesses at reputational and regulatory risk and can lead to a poor customer experience.
But there is no need, especially now that the technology exists to facilitate a form-free future. Now, centralised, automated data collection can feed into a rapid online check that shows proof and source of funds as well as performing account verification – providing property and conveyancing firms with a simple and easily evidenced route to compliance.
Such automated reports also have the potential to highlight regular incomings and outgoings, provide a timeline of account balances and flag any significant payments so irregular activity can be identified for further inspection.
Beyond improved risk management and security for businesses, automated data collection will significantly improve the customer experience by enabling customers to fill out forms in a user-native way, either on their phones or computers.
The solution to cracking down on fraudulent property transactions lies in a radical rethink of our relationship with paperwork – one that recognises that, while it can hold the truth, it can just as easily hide it. And realises that, by being selective about the data we share and eradicating unnecessary form-filling, we can make property sector transactions not only swifter but safer, too.
Tom Lyes is head of legal and property services at Armalytix