Property advertisement (supplied)
by Jonathan Chancellor
It was marketed by LJ Hooker under the ironic headline “LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING!!!”
And RP Data shows it sold within six days of its initial marketing in March at the lower end of its $410,000 to $440,000 price estimate.
But Perth police now suspect another Nigerian scam has taken place following the sale of a brick Ballajura house in the 6066 postcode 14 kilometres north of Perth.
The $410,000 property had been owned by absentee investors, who’d put it with the LJ Hooker leasing department’s rental pool in 2008 at $400 a week.
The snappily sold house (the marketing said “FIRST TO SEE WILL GRAB IT!”) – settled in April through LJ Hooker Settlements – was done so without the knowledge of the landlord owner, who has since complained to the fraud police. The unknowing buyer has also complained to police as being caught in the scam.
Absentee owners, especially investors with unencumbered titles, ought to be very vigilant given it’s the second time since June 2010 that such a scam has been successfully carried off.
“As far as we are concerned we have done nothing wrong,” the LJ Hooker agent told Property Observer.
The sale seemingly mimicked the 2010 case when another Perth property owner was overseas when his house was sold.
Police say early indications suggest there were a number of similarities to the fraudulent sale of Roger Mildenhall's Karrinyup home last year.
Mildenhall lost his $485,000 home when it was sold by scammers in Nigeria.
He has yet to secure any compensation from the state titles register, Landgate. He was shocked when a neighbour informed him his house had been sold, only to then return to Perth and find his second property was also about to be sold.
Up to 400 WA property title transactions are being re-examined, with the incident bringing the real estate and conveyancing industries under increased scrutiny.
Consumer Protection Commissioner Anne Driscoll has warned there could be more cases that have not yet been detected and urged home owners living overseas to make contact with their real estate agents.
Police believe the estate agents acting for the unknowing owner and buyer of the house were conned by a Nigerian-based scam using fake identification despite heightened Landgate security processes implemented after the first fraudulent sale in September last year.
At the time, Detective Senior Sergeant Don Heise said the emails authorising the sale should have raised alarm bells.
"On most occasions the emails show poor English so that's a very solid point that people should look out for when dealing with sales from overseas," Heise says.
He says real estate agents also need to watch out for changes in personal details, especially the notification of a change of address, email address, home address or telephone number before the sale is registered.
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