A Nigerian man has recently been arrested over an attempt to fraudulently sell a Western Australian property.
In 2010, a property scam in Western Australia sent shudders through the property industry after a residential property was fraudulently sold under a scam run out of Nigeria.
Following the scam, conveyancing processes in Western Australia were overhauled and strict verification of identity procedures were introduced for property transfers in July 2012.
In the latest incident, a Mandurah based real estate agent became suspicious after receiving an email purporting to update a property owner’s contact details, followed shortly thereafter by another email containing instructions to put the property on the market.
Having attending courses run by the Major Fraud Squad and the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia in the wake of the previous scams, the real estate agent recognised immediately that the emails raised red flags.
A plan was then hatched between the real estate agent, Western Australian Police, Australian Federal Police and Nigerian and South African authorities, to continue a fake sales process in order to catch the scammer.
For 8 months the real estate agent kept up communications with the scammer, speaking regularly on the telephone and creating the appearance that the property sale was going ahead. During this time the real estate agent received copies of fake passports and forged documents, claiming to be from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria. After many attempts to draw out the scammer, Nigerian police eventually arrested the man in August as he attempted to collect a parcel containing the settlement documents.
The arrest comes as a welcome indication that the new identification regime is effective, whilst also acting as a reminder that agents, conveyancers and lawyers dealing with property transactions must remain vigilant.
Western Australian Police are investigating possible links between this and other attempted property scams in Western Australia.