A Nigerian man allegedly contacted the property manager in December 2012, purporting to be the owner of the home, and requested documents relating to the rented property, which were sent to him. He then used a Yahoo email address in the name of one of the real owners, who is a Johannesburg resident, and requested that all future correspondence be forwarded to the new email address and all phone contact be made through a new number.
In January, 2013, the agency received a request to sell the property and a sales agreement with false signatures was completed. Fake passports of the two owners were also sent to the agent, as well as a forged document from the Australian High Commission.
Fortunately, suspicions were raised by staff at the agency, who had attended an anti-fraud education seminar, and they contacted police.
With the help of detectives, the agency then faked a sale of the property and were told to deposit $785,000 into a bank account in southeast Asia.
This helped WA police and the Australian Federal Police track the alleged offender down in Nigeria. He was apprehended by Nigerian authorities when he attended an international courier office and attempted to collect documents with a forged driver’s licence.
WA police detective senior sergeant Dom Blackshaw says landlords should keep up to date with their property managers and obtain regular statements from them.
“Investigations are continuing into other people who may be involved and also into whether there are links between this case and the two successful and five attempted frauds reported in WA over the past five years,” he says.
“Six of the seven cases involved owners who live in South Africa, have investment properties in Perth, which are rented, and have had their identities stolen.
“We’re not exactly sure how the offenders come to know about the South African-based owners and their investment properties, but it would appear they’re somehow intercepting correspondence between the owners and their agent in Perth. This could be physically by intercepting letters sent through the postal service, or electronically by owners having their email account, or perhaps their computers, hacked.”
Source: Australia Property News (August 16th 2013)
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