Real estate bulletin issue 64 - Three arrested over another real estate fraud attempt (July 2014)

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Property industry

4 July 2014

Three people have been arrested and charged by South African Police in connection with the attempted fraudulent sale of a home in Western Australia. 

Please see the joint media release below for further information. 

The arrests are a timely reminder of the need for agents to be alert during property transactions, particularly when acting as property managers for overseas sellers. You should be aware that criminals use many of the same methods in their fraud attempts, including: 

  • Contacting an agency via email or phone to request that all future correspondence be sent to a new email address and all contact be made via a new phone number. 
  • The use of poor English and poor grammar which was not apparent in other correspondence from the owner in question. 
  • Supplying a signature which does not match the copy of an owner’s signature held on agency files. 
  • Supplying photocopies of a fraudulent passport, driver’s licence or other proof-of-identity document. These fraudulent documents may feature identical identification photos despite being issued several years apart. 

 
When a property owner residing overseas wants to change their contact details, agents should verify the request by contacting the owner via the address the agency has on file (both email and physical). Signatures and photocopies of documents should be carefully scrutinised, while noticeably poor English 
should raise a red flag. Undertaking these checks will help minimise the chance of a fraud attempt being successful. 
 
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll reminds agents, sales representatives and property managers of the need to have documented processes in place to prevent the possibility of homes being sold without the owner’s permission. This should include some form of regular internal cross-checking to confirm the procedures are being consistently applied by all staff. 
 
Criminals often start real estate frauds by targeting the property management sections of agencies, so there must be risk management practices in place to detect these frauds early. 
 
The Department’s proactive review of agents will continue to include checks to ensure appropriate client identity verification processes are prepared and being followed by all staff. 
 
Agents, sales representatives and property managers could place their licences or registrations at risk if they fail to comply with the strengthened Code of Conduct for Agents and Sales Representatives 2011. 

The Department’s guidance notes are available on the property scams page. 

 

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Last updated 18 Jun 2015

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