Agents have thwarted three more real estate scam attempts in WA, not long after two homes were successfully sold without their owners’ knowledge, and the state government is warning the industry to remain vigilant.
Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said real estate agents had stopped attempts by overseas scammers to defraud the owners of properties in Belmont, Subiaco and Applecross in recent months.
According to the government, the most recent incident on May 11 saw scammers contact the property manager of an Applecross agency claiming to be the owner of a rental property and requesting a statement be sent urgently. The agent contacted the real owner through known contact details on file and confirmed it was the beginnings of a scam attempt.
All three cases are being investigated by WA Police (Major Fraud Squad).
The Minister congratulated the agents involved for their vigilance.
“Fraudsters have clearly been encouraged by the two previous successful scams in WA,” he said. “These new attempts reiterate just how important it is that property and settlement agents apply rigorous scrutiny to all property transactions, particularly when they involve absentee owners and overseas vendors.”
The government reported that in the Belmont scam, people hacked into a home owner’s laptop computer through a Trojan virus and retrieved information on the owner’s investment property. The real estate agent who was managing the property was then contacted in an attempt to have the rental income diverted to an overseas bank account.
In the second fraud attempt, which occurred in April, agents selling a luxury property in Subiaco received an offer to purchase from scammers who sent a fake bank cheque in excess of the asking price in the hope that the excess amount would be refunded and deposited into an overseas account.
The state government strengthened the industry’s Codes of Conduct after homes in Ballajura and Karrinyup were sold fraudulently while their owners were overseas.
Consumer Protection said it has made identity verification training mandatory for all agents and WA Police conducts education seminars for the industry on this issue.
“Identity fraud and cyber crime is a continuing concern for authorities but awareness and vigilance are our best weapons to ensure fraud attempts are not rewarded,” Mr O’Brien said.