Agent alert issued following real estate scam

Authorities have warned real estate and settlement agents to be on high alert following the recently reported real estate fraud in the ACT.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll believes the criminals responsible will be encouraged by their success to make further fraud attempts.

“Everyone in the property industry, particularly those involved in property management and sales, should have a heightened state of awareness about these fraud attempts,” she said.

“They need to be in a position to detect them soon after initial contact is made and certainly before any documents are sent.

“Agents need to ensure they have owner identification processes in place and that all of their staff are properly trained and instructed in what to do when a request to change contact details is made, especially if the owner is based overseas.”

Western Australian Police Major Fraud Squad detective senior sergeant Dom Blackshaw said there are similarities between the ACT fraud and previous cases in WA.

“There have been two successful and six unsuccessful real estate frauds reported in WA in recent years, all but one have involved properties owned by South Africans,” he said.

“We are assisting ACT authorities in their inquiries by sharing information gathered during our investigation into these past WA cases.

“Through our cooperation with the Australian Federal Police and overseas authorities we have had some success, with one man in Nigeria and three people in South Africa arrested over two of these frauds – but this doesn’t mean there won’t be others who are attempting to do the same,” he added.

Mr Blackshaw said with the “windfall for successful real estate fraud being substantial”, there will always be criminals attempting to steal an owner’s identity and sell their home without their knowledge.

“So it’s imperative that people working in the property industry are vigilant at all times to the warning signs so that these fraud attempts don’t reach a successful conclusion,” he said.

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