Authorities have warned property managers to be on high alert following the recent 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.
Speaking to Residential Property Manager, LJ Hooker Canberra City executive property manager Lina Santosuosso said the fraud situation is “scary” and property managers need to be aware of what could happen if you aren’t careful.
“Under the circumstances of what happened [in Canberra], I think they got hold of the owner's email and asked for the email to be changed,” she said.
“You are hoping that the property manager had the right information, and did a bit more investigation.
“I just think we have to be very mindful and cautious, and I guess if we do get those kinds of requests we have to investigate them further and not act on them straight away,” she added.