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Written by Melanie Toye, June 2012

Real Estate Agents Selling Your Home to Fraudsters

Recently, two property scams have occurred in Australia. Both owners were overseas when the agents sold the homes without their knowledge. Both homes had tenants. In 2010 and 2011, two major scams in Western Australia had properties sold without the consent and knowledge of the actual property owners.

It appears in 2012, from a poor identification system, this has occurred again. The fraudulent persons pretended to be the owner and provided new contact details to the agent which formed the basis of future contacts. The proceeds of the sale went overseas and have not been recovered.

Department of Commerce in WA warns everyone that the fraudster is not always overseas, however can approach an agent in person requesting the sale of a property.

"It may even be that the property to be sold is currently occupied by a person who masquerades as the owner, or alternatively the property for sale is vacant land. A further possibility, and more probable, is that the person wanting to sell the property is a party to either a family/business dispute or fraud and has inside knowledge of the registered proprietors."

A way for fraudsters to steal your property from underneath you is to pretend to have lost the land titles deeds to your home. A new deed is sent without question. Now the criminal has the deeds to your home and with this deed, they can sell it.

When the major property stealing scams occurred in 2010, Neil Jenman, a real estate expert stated "In the real estate industry no-one asks for identification when they go to sell a house, so how do you know the person who says they own the house is really the owner? That's the essence of where this scam unfolds.”

Audits on sale transactions in 2010 transmitted from the mounted reports on the property scams that occurred. The hope that fraudsters would never be able to scam property owners again, failed.