A PROPERTY manager has been fined by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) after falling victim to a holiday accommodation scam.
Vicki Theresa Redfern was fined $2500 after falling victim to the scam – in which overseas scammers used fake credit cards to pay for bogus holiday bookings – which cost her employer $45,000.
Using the name Colonel Michael Warner, the scammer contacted the agency to make a booking for three groups totalling $53,449.
The scammer used seven credit cards to make the booking – three of which were declined.
At the scammer’s request, Ms Redfern transferred $25,138 and $20,066 from the agency’s trust account to third parties supposedly to pay for translation and tour guide services in advance.
These funds have never been recovered.
Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said she went ahead after ignoring a warning from an office colleague that the requests were suspicious.
She faced disciplinary action for failing to:
- ensure the caller completed and returned agency forms sent in respect to the bookings;
- follow the agency’s practice of holding deposits in trust until all guests had vacated the accommodation;
- seek to verify the identities of the various credit card holders;
- seek to verify the identities of the third parties who received payment without providing any services or producing any invoices; and
- inform or seek instructions from the agency’s principal prior to transferring the large sums of money from the agency’s trust account – despite a colleague querying the legitimacy of the caller’s behaviour and requests.
Mr Hillyard said he was disappointed that such a large sum of money was lost.
“Verifying the identity of people involved in financial transactions within the property industry is now at the forefront of all of the Department’s training and communications with the industry,” he said.
“So it is disheartening that in this case scammers could use the agency as a vehicle to steal credit card holders’ funds with relative ease, with not even the most basic checks being carried out.
“Just a quick internet search of the scammer’s name would have uncovered the fact that the name has been used previously in a variety of Nigerian based scams. Then to ignore the concerns from a colleague about the scammer’s unusual demands is entirely lacking in diligence.
“All principals of businesses in the property industry in WA must ensure that their staff, particularly those who are entrusted to operate the agency’s bank accounts, are well trained in fraud prevention methods and exercise a high degree of vigilance.
“Agencies must have practices and procedures in place to assist staff recognise scam attempts in order to thwart them before the criminals are rewarded and losses are incurred by the business.”
Ms Redfern did not respond to a request for comment.