A house in Australia has been sold through a South African real estate scam without the owner’s knowledge.
The fraud was revealed after the South African-based owner contacted the agent to question why rent payments on the investment property at Macgregor, north Canberra, had stopped.
The fraudulent sale of the house was made without face-to-face contact and completed using emailed or posted documents.
Real Estate Institute ACT chief executive Ron Bell said agents must be vigilant as the number of fraud attempts was growing. “Agents need to ask a lot of questions, particularly when it is an overseas buyer or seller,” he said.
“When everything is in written communication, via email, and email addresses are changing, you can start to feel something is going on.”
Bell said real estate agents had no liability in such situations because they followed instructions to sell.
In Western Australia, there have been two successful property sales and six attempts by fraudsters to exchange properties since 2010.
Three people were arrested in South Africa earlier this month after they attempted to sell a unit at Mandurah, south of Perth, worth €185,000.
“They have been dealing with the South African police, and this lady is going to have to do the same thing,” Bell said.
“And it is going to be a very lengthy and expensive process.
“The money has gone to South Africa, so trying to find it and track it down is going to be a nightmare.”
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