Property fraud is one of the worst nightmares of home owners, with recent reports of unidentified third parties attempting to sell other peoples’ homes while the owner is abroad.
In July, an owner was living in South Africa and found that his Canberra house had been sold after contacting his ACT property manager, having not received four expected rental payments.
The ACT Police became involved to rectifying the issue.
However, what can you do to ensure that things don't get that far for your property? The Office of Regulatory Services has 15 steps that all property owners can take to protect themselves.
They note that investment properties are generally more at risk than owner-occupied homes.
THE 15 STEPS TO TAKE:
- Before selecting an agent, ask questions about their procedures when dealing with overseas owners.
- Keep in regular contact with your agent.
- Pre-establish security questions with your property manager/agent, that only you will be able to answer, and requesting these security questions be used whenever the property manager/agent contacts you. The security questions should be established verbally and not written in an email, as emails may be compromised if the account has been hacked.
- Regularly check that your property manager/agent has your current and correct contact details on file.
- Ensure that your property manager/agent has a process in place to verify any requests to change your contact details, for example by sending notifications to both the old and new addresses, both electronic and postal.
- Ensure that your property manager/agent has your correct signature on file and that they check all signed documents to confirm the signatures match.
- If travelling overseas, ask a family member or close friend to keep an eye on your property and to keep in contact with your property manager/agent on your behalf. This person should be introduced to the agent by you and security questions should be established for them as well.
- If possible, keep in touch with neighbours so they can advise you of any changes in the property.
- Check rental statements regularly.
- Protect personal information by using secured mailboxes for mail deliveries and shredding or burning letters before disposing of them.
- Be wary of giving personal and/or financial information to third parties, either by phone or email.
- When replying to an email, typing the known genuine email address rather than simply clicking the ‘reply’ button – an email may have a hidden address in it.
- Regularly change passwords for email and banking accounts.
- Never click on any links contained in emails from unknown sources.
- Install anti-virus/anti-malware software on personal computers and keep it up-to-date.
Source: Office of Regulatory Services