Eight ways to protect yourself from landbanking fraudsters

1. Legitimacy

If you're in any doubt about the legitimacy of a landbanking company, ring the Finanical Services Authority (FSA) consumer helpline on 0845 606 1234.

2: Who owns the land?

Ask who actually owns and manages the land and who is applying for planning permission. This should give you an indication of whether or not the company needs to be authorised.

3: Check the company's authorised

Simply checking the name of the firm against the FSA's list of authorised companies sometimes isn't enough, as fraudsters will often claim falsely to be one of these authorised companies.

4: Land Registry

Do your own Local Authority and Land Registry searches to check that the land being sold isn't in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on green belt land, or owned by someone else.

5: Directors

Search the Companies House database to check whether the company has filed up-to-date accounts, and have a look at the directors - some can have hundreds of failed directorships behind them.

6: Check the plot

Check the land address against Google Earth images to ascertain its suitability for development, or even visit the plot yourself and use your common sense.

7: Get advice

If you're thinking of investing tens of thousands, consider getting advice from a solicitor and a surveyor first before committing yourself. After all, you'd do the same if you were buying a house, so why not when you're buying land?

8: Valid contact details

Check that telephone numbers and postal addresses quoted on websites and brochures are real.