Working to combat property fraud
If property ownership is the great Australian dream, the greatest nightmare is surely having your property sold out from under you without your knowledge or permission – and investment property owners are most at risk.
That’s the assessment of the Office of Regulatory Services in the ACT where, earlier this year, the South Africa-based owner of a Canberra investment property inquired about missing rent payments only to discover his investment had been illicitly sold.
In conjunction with the Australian Federal Police, the Office has released a series of tips which could help landlords and the agencies renting out their homes avoid being the victim of such a scam.
You can find the full fact sheet here but, in summary, it urges landlords to:
- ask about agencies’ procedures in dealing with overseas owners;
- keep in regular contact;
- verbally (not via email) establish security questions for the agent to use in any contact with you to verify identity;
- ensure the agency has a process to verify requests to change contact details;
- ensure your property manager has the correct signature on file and cross-check all signed documents;
- check rental statements regularly.
In an earlier fact sheet, real estate agents were also alerted to the following warning signs:
- a change in address or other contact details that occurs at the time or shortly before instructions to sell arrive;
- email or phone requests to change email addresses or phone numbers;
- new email addresses which are generic such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail;
- transaction involving people overseas, or documents issued overseas;
- a request for funds to be sent to a different bank account to the one the client usually uses;
- advice that the sale is urgent;
- the offer of incentives for a quick sale;
- poor English and grammar that was not apparent from earlier communication from the real owner;
- a signature that doesn’t match the one on your files;
- photocopies of fraudulent ID cards, which may feature identical photos despite being issued years apart.