Foreign scammers target ACT in fraud case

Following a string of fraud convictions in Western Australia, overseas scammers have now targeted a Canberra house by selling the property without the owner's knowledge.

The South African real estate scam was reportedly revealed after the Macgregor property owner contacted her property manager to question why rent payments on the investment property were not being received.

The fraudulent sale of the house was made without face-to-face contact and was completed using emailed or posted documents.

Attorney-general Simon Corbell said the government was very concerned ''a scam of this magnitude may have affected residents in the ACT'', as reported in The Canberra Times.  

He said the government did not anticipate publicly releasing information at present as the facts were not yet fully clear and the matter may be the subject of an investigation.

Speaking to Real Estate Business, Real Estate Institute ACT (REIACT) chief executive Ron Bell said agents must be cautious as the number of fraud attempts was growing.

“Here in the ACT we have had one sale actually be successful and go through, somebody who has been overseas and come back and found their property has been sold out from under them to a South African scam,” he said.

“What has got to happen is all agents need to be vigilant and they need to ask a lot of questions, particularly if it is someone enquiring from overseas to sell their property.”

Mr Bell said Mr Corbell has put together a “very comprehensive” fact sheet which the REIACT will distribute to all its agents.

“There are a number of checklists on there that agents should go through, but also so should the vendors,“ he said.

“We will get it out there and keep pressing the point; you guys have got to be vigilant and you have got to make sure your clients are vigilant as well - their documentation and contact details have got to be absolutely accurate.”

PRD nationwide Canberra real estate agent Ron Svoboda said the rules and regulations in the ACT are “pretty vigorous” and this case is out of the ordinary.

“I haven’t heard of this happening anywhere in the ACT, but I was aware of the Western Australian situations, and my heart bled for that poor agent involved in that,” he told Real Estate Business.

“These things do happen if you don’t have proper checks in place.

“From my own personal experience, I am always very, very wary of doing anything by email or over the phone unless I verify that everything is okay - that is definitely something that agents do all need to be aware of,” he added.

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