The email from one of Bees Nees’ landlords came in one night. He was travelling, had his wallet stolen and needed our help. Could we arrange to transfer some funds? The email address was correct, this client lived overseas and we were used to corresponding by email with him. And as his property managers we did have funds we were holding for him. But it turned out his Hotmail account had been hacked, the email a scam and our caution in double-checking meant we dodged an expensive bullet.
Like many industries ours is catching up with the ‘opportunities’ new technology has created for our scamming friends in places like Nigeria. Even here in Brisbane we’re witness to this. It’s more than 2 years since we reported on the sale of a Perth house where the fraudsters duped an agent and got the sale price deposited into their account. And it wasn’t an isolated attempt with our industry the weak link to some tempting funds.
It’s taken some time but the ABC reports one of these fraudsters, Ntuen Promise Ekenmini, has recently been arrested in Nigeria. “Police allege the attempted fraud began when a man contacted the property manager of a Mandurah real estate agency on 17 December, 2012, pretending to be the owner of a home being managed by the agency and requesting documents relating to the rented property. He allegedly used an email address in the name of one of the real owners, who is a resident of Johannesburg, and requested all future correspondence be forwarded to it. “
He went on to appoint them to sell the property (agents often do all of this by email with long-distance owners), forging all documents and providing “copies of fake passports of the two owners, a husband and wife, as well as a forged document purporting to be from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria confirming their identity.” This agency smelt a rat however and tipped off police, who played along until they nabbed their man.
So if you’re asked to provide our agency with your date of birth or other identification please don’t be offended. The ease with which these fraudsters help themselves to someone’s investments is frightening. Agents across Australia are taking extra steps to confirm who we’re selling for and to, and triple-checking instructions from our landlord clients.