A new rule which forces Western Australia-based real estate agents to undertake 100-point identification checks of their clients has become a debacle, according to one prominent industry professional.
Following a number of property scams in Western Australia, the government introduced the new requirement which Geoff Baldwin, managing director of RE/MAX WA, has described as a "debacle" that's upsetting some sellers.
“The Real Estate Agents’ Act was changed to make it compulsory for agents to acquire 100-point identification and to have it on file prior to every property sale they administer, while at the same time it has also been demanded that settlement agents obtain the same ID confirmation again before they settle the property,” he said.
“This in itself is overkill and it upsets a lot of sellers who, in these days of identity theft, rightfully feel uncomfortable with having copies of their passports sitting in folders in offices across Perth.
“Although the onus of ID checks has been enforced on agents, information disseminated by the government via flyers and radio advertisements telling sellers they are required to provide 100 points of ID makes no mention of real estate agents.”
Stuart Cox, CEO of Harcourts WA, agreed, adding that agents aren’t qualified to identify fraudulent documents.
“As real estate agents collecting this information we also need to not get lulled into a false sense of security in believing that because we have a few forms if ID that everything will be ok,” he told Real Estate Business.
“We are not qualified to assess whether the copies of documents are valid or perhaps forged. If someone is to go to the lengths to try to obtain money in this way, it's highly likely they will also have the resources to pay for quality forgeries of the documents.
“As a profession, we need to keep as vigilant as ever in making sure alarm bells are not ringing and being ignored by believing we have proof of ID.”
Mr Baldwin stressed that ID checks remain important as a means of deterring fraudsters, particularly in light of a number of cases where WA homes were sold without the owners' knowledge.
“There is no argument that an ID system is required to make it as hard as possible for fraudsters to succeed, but the current misinformation - doubling up, copying and storing of people's personal information in agents’ offices - is madness and has the capacity to replace one security problem with another," Mr Baldwin said.
“The government needs to act now to refine the one system whereby prospective sellers attend the Post Office once and provide the required ID, which is registered online as having been cleared.
“This ID clearance should be associated with the particular property and the secure database should be accessible using a PIN - to agents, brokers, and settlement agents for their clients only.”