Landgate takes action against land title fraud

18 October 2012

The recent attempt by overseas fraudsters to sell a Perth home reinforces the importance of Landgate's
new Verification of Identity Practice.1

Verifying the identity of the person claiming to be the owner of a property, who has the authority to sell that property, is a crucial step in the land transaction process. 

Landgate's Verification of Identity Practice is designed to minimise the risk of land title fraud by establishing a new, more robust standard for verifying the identity of persons transacting with land.

The Practice applies to a range of land document types and to specified parties and it is intended for conveyancers – licensed settlements agents, lawyers, financial institutions and self represented parties. The practice complements the established guidelines for other property professionals implemented by the Department of Commerce.

Landgate Chief Executive Mike Bradford said with the increasing reports of identity theft, Landgate took the initiative to develop the new practice to protect and strengthen the integrity of the State‟s land title system. 

"We want to encourage a more vigilant and responsive approach by conveyancers and the property industry to implement a higher standard of verification of identity to reduce the risk of land title fraud," said Mr Bradford.

"Ultimately this is about protecting people's homes – the places where we live and watch our families grow. I think most West Australians would agree that if we can implement a higher standard of identity verification to reduce the risk of people potentially losing their homes, then this practice is of great value."

Discussions with the WA Police Major Fraud Squad and Department of Commerce highlighted that verification of identity should occur early in the land transaction process and before financial settlement. This is before documents are lodged at Landgate.

"We understand that this new practice is a considerable shift in the way conveyancers verify the identity of their clients. We also know that it‟s unlikely that we will be able to completely stop those individuals who are determined to commit fraud," said Mr Bradford.

"However, widespread reporting of identity theft has made it clear that home owners and potential buyers of property need to be aware that scammers are out there. The public need to be aware of our new Verification of Identity Practice and understand their conveyancers may ask them to verify their identity and confirm that they are authorised to sell the particular property."

Landgate has delivered industry training workshops across the State, helping more than 740 property professionals to gain a better understanding of the new practice and its practical implementation. Each workshop begins with a presentation from the WA Police Major Fraud Squad.

"Collaboration with the Major Fraud Squad in these workshops has been critical. The Police presentation describes the risk property professionals face from individuals or crime syndicates using sophisticated methods to commit identity theft which may potentially lead to cases of land title fraud," said Mr Bradford.

The workshops have been well received with the majority of attendees keen to better understand how to implement the appropriate verification of identity as well as general fraud mitigation processes in their businesses.

Landgate consulted widely with the property industry during the development of the new Verification of Identity Practice, and continues to work closely with the Department of Commerce, the Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA (AICWA), REIWA and the Law Society of Western Australia as the practice is being implemented.

1The "Western Australian Registrar and Commissioner of Titles Joint Practice: Verification of Identity‟ (dated 20 June 2012) is known as the "Verification of Identity Practice‟.


The Verification of Identity Practice commenced transitionally on 1 July 2012 with full compliance expected on documents lodged on and after 2 January 2013.

The Verification of Identity Practice sets out a higher standard for conveyancers to verify and confirm the identity of persons wanting to sell land and who has the authority to deal with a specific parcel of land. The practice applies to a range of land document types including importantly, mortgages.

The standard has two formal requirements. Firstly, a person transacting on a property should be able to produce a number of current, original identity documents preferably with photographs. The second is the visual verification, which is the practice of checking that the photograph on the identity document is similar to the person being identified at a face-to-face meeting.

The Verification of Identity Practice is not limited to residential homes and affects all types of real property including commercial development and business livelihood.

Landgate has introduced other measures to reduce the risk of land title fraud including:

  • Property owners are now able to lodge a new Caveat (Improper Dealings) over their property. This Caveat may prevent an unlawful change of ownership and may be particularly useful for owners who are overseas for any period of time and concerned about the possibility of identity theft. 
  • Landgate's TitleWatch is an online service which provides a subscriber with automatic email
    notification about the current status of a nominated Certificate of Title.
Notes to editors

Landgate is Western Australia's primary source of land information and geographic data, providing the accuracy government, business and individuals rely on.

Contact: Phillip Rowell, Media Advisor
Phone: +61 (0)8 9273 7564 or +61 (0)407 420 255 


This page was last updated on: 11 Sep 2020