WA on high alert after new property scams

Steven Cross

Scammers are still trying to dupe property professionals in Western Australia, with two more scams putting the state's Department of Commerce on ‘high alert’.

According to the WA Department of Commerce, the first scammer tried to sell a home that had been recently purchased.

“The agent became suspicious after receiving a phone call from the scammer, who had an African accent, wanting an urgent sale for the property that had just sold two months earlier," the department said in a statement.

“In the second case, the agency had received a request to sell the property supported by copies of fake passports, forged signatures and a letter of verification purportedly from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa.

“The alarm was raised when the agency’s sales manager identified warning signs of property fraud he had learned in presentations and educational material provided by Consumer Protection, WA Police and the Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA).

“In this case, scammers requested an urgent sale and promised the agency future sales – similar tactics used in previous scam attempts.”

The recent scams come after two, highly publicised incidents in 2010 and 2011 that resulted in properties being sold in Western Australia without the knowledge and consent of the lawful property owners. Local real estate group Realmark also reported in July last year that they were the victim of a scam that targeted its website, placing some of the group’s rental listings on another website in the hope of obtaining applicants’ personal identification details.

David Airey, president of the REIWA, applauded the agents for their work.

“It’s clear that scammers are targeting WA in particular, and in recent years we have seen two properties sold by con-artists who didn’t own the proprieties but who produced sophisticated, fraudulent documents to claim they did,” Mr Airey said.

“I am confident that if these new security requirements and procedures are followed by agents and their staff to the letter, the chances of future scams are virtually impossible and today’s news is encouraging evidence of that.”

Mr Airey said the Institute had been working closely with the Department of Commerce and WA Police over the last few years to educate members about spotting scams and stopping them. The NSW government followed suit in October last year, introducing new fraud prevention guidelines largely based on events in WA.

“It’s terrific to see that the education programs have worked and that property owners have been protected,” Mr Airey continued.

The WA Police Major Fraud Squad is investigating both recent incidents.

“These new fraud attempts are being investigated with the view of identifying the offenders,” said detective senior sergeant, Dom Blackshaw.

“The investigation will analyse similarities between these incidents and past successful and attempted property frauds, such as the links to Africa and the methods of contact. It’s clear that the criminals are again active and could be targeting other agencies now and in the future, so everyone in the property industry needs to be extra vigilant.”

Steven Cross

Scammers are still trying to dupe property professionals in Western Australia, with two more scams putting the state's Department of Commerce on ‘high alert’.

According to the WA Department of Commerce, the first scammer tried to sell a home that had been recently purchased.

“The agent became suspicious after receiving a phone call from the scammer, who had an African accent, wanting an urgent sale for the property that had just sold two months earlier," the department said in a statement.

“In the second case, the agency had received a request to sell the property supported by copies of fake passports, forged signatures and a letter of verification purportedly from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa.

“The alarm was raised when the agency’s sales manager identified warning signs of property fraud he had learned in presentations and educational material provided by Consumer Protection, WA Police and the Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA).

“In this case, scammers requested an urgent sale and promised the agency future sales – similar tactics used in previous scam attempts.”

The recent scams come after two, highly publicised incidents in 2010 and 2011 that resulted in properties being sold in Western Australia without the knowledge and consent of the lawful property owners. Local real estate group Realmark also reported in July last year that they were the victim of a scam that targeted its website, placing some of the group’s rental listings on another website in the hope of obtaining applicants’ personal identification details.

David Airey, president of the REIWA, applauded the agents for their work.

“It’s clear that scammers are targeting WA in particular, and in recent years we have seen two properties sold by con-artists who didn’t own the proprieties but who produced sophisticated, fraudulent documents to claim they did,” Mr Airey said.

“I am confident that if these new security requirements and procedures are followed by agents and their staff to the letter, the chances of future scams are virtually impossible and today’s news is encouraging evidence of that.”

Mr Airey said the Institute had been working closely with the Department of Commerce and WA Police over the last few years to educate members about spotting scams and stopping them. The NSW government followed suit in October last year, introducing new fraud prevention guidelines largely based on events in WA.

“It’s terrific to see that the education programs have worked and that property owners have been protected,” Mr Airey continued.

The WA Police Major Fraud Squad is investigating both recent incidents.

“These new fraud attempts are being investigated with the view of identifying the offenders,” said detective senior sergeant, Dom Blackshaw.

“The investigation will analyse similarities between these incidents and past successful and attempted property frauds, such as the links to Africa and the methods of contact. It’s clear that the criminals are again active and could be targeting other agencies now and in the future, so everyone in the property industry needs to be extra vigilant.”

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