The Western Australia government is warning agents to be on guard for fraudsters after three real estate scams were reported in recent months.
Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said real estate agents had stopped attempts by overseas scammers to defraud the owners of properties in Belmont, Subiaco and Applecross in recent months.
In the most recent incident on May 11, scammers contacted the property manager of an Applecross agency claiming to be the owner of a rental property and requesting a statement be sent urgently, the Department of Commerce said.
The agent contacted the real owner through known contact details on file and confirmed it was the beginnings of a scam attempt.
In a second fraud attempt, which occurred in April, agents selling a luxury property in Subiaco received an offer to purchase from scammers who sent a fake bank cheque in excess of the asking price in the hope that the excess amount would be refunded and deposited into an overseas account.
All three cases are being investigated by WA Police (Major Fraud Squad).
The minister congratulated the agents involved for their vigilance.
“Fraudsters have clearly been encouraged by the two previous successful scams in WA,” he said. “These new attempts reiterate just how important it is that property and settlement agents apply rigorous scrutiny to all property transactions, particularly when they involve absentee owners and overseas vendors.”
The state government said it strengthened the industry’s Codes of Conduct after homes in Ballajura and Karrinyup were sold fraudulently while their owners were overseas. The new codes require agents to exercise greater care, skill and diligence when conducting identity checks on clients.
Consumer Protection has made identity verification training mandatory for all agents and WA Police conducts education seminars for the industry on this issue.
“Identity fraud and cyber crime is a continuing concern for authorities but awareness and vigilance are our best weapons to ensure fraud attempts are not rewarded,” Mr O’Brien said.