House stolen by Internet scammers
Internet scammers conned an Australian real estate agent into selling a Perth house for $485,000 without the owner's knowledge.
Police have told Roger Mildenhall, 64, the money is gone and he may not see a cent of it, Australia's Sunday Times reported in its Sept. 12 edition. In a bitter twist, the building contractor may still have to pay thousands of dollars in capital gains tax, the newspaper said.
The investment property was sold in June but Mildenhall, who now lives in South Africa, was not aware of the fraud until a former neighbour contacted him last week.
Mildenhall told the Sunday Times it appears his house was put on the market after a series of emails were sent to a real estate agent asking for the home to be sold due to financial hardship.
Mildenhall said fraud squad police officers told him their initial investigations indicated the scammers were originally from Nigeria.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said the scammers even faxed duplicates of the deeds to the house to the real estate agent who sold the property. Such documents are readily accessible to the general public, the ABC said.
"It wasn't even my signature on the letter of acceptance, it was just like a five-year-old had written out my name in block letters. And yet the (real estate) agency didn't even turn a hair, they just accepted it," Mildenhall said.
The sale and the actions of companies involved are now under investigation by the national board governing Australia's real estate industry as well as by police.
A second Perth investment property owned by Mildenhall was also in the process of being sold by scammers when Mildenhall returned to Australia last week.
He managed to stop the sale but said the locks had already been changed on the home and cleaners had been contracted to prepare the home for its new owners.
"I've got lots of questions because due diligence (by the real estate agents) wasn't shown. There were several things that should not have happened without me - the real me - activating the sale," he said.
Mildenhall said he will now try to recoup the losses from the companies involved with the sale.