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Securing property transactions: What to look out for

Property investment, known for its stability, can inadvertently attract both reputable buyers and criminals seeking illicit gains.

As the allure of real estate transactions grows, so does the necessity for heightened cyber vigilance, particularly in matters involving financial exchanges and property dealings.

Understanding how criminals infiltrate property transactions

Criminals have found property transactions to be a channel for money laundering, effectively integrating illegal funds into the legal economy. This approach provides not only a secure investment but also an avenue for generating illicit income. The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) points out that criminals may exploit the secrecy surrounding property ownership origins for their benefit.

Local property transactions often leave a paper trail involving banks, estate agencies, and attorneys through the process of conveyancing. Unfortunately, this process can omit estate agents from directly handling funds or property registration, potentially leading to oversight in scrutinising fund origins.

Heightened risks and precautions

Some Criminals may even overpay for properties intended for illegal activities, thereby concealing their intentions from property owners. Geographical separation between the property and the transacting party can further increase vulnerabilities, particularly in international property dealings where lax regulations may prevail.

One significant concern lies in the manipulation of property valuations, resulting from money laundering efforts distorting market prices. Criminals may deliberately inflate or deflate property values to expedite transactions, contributing to market imbalances within neighborhoods or areas.

The perils of cash transactions

Considerable portion of rentals still involve physical cash payments. The FIC urges estate agents to diligently assess payment methods and transaction sizes, particularly for high-value or overpriced properties paid for in cash.

Guarding against deception

Remaining cautious in the property realm involves recognizing and thwarting various deceitful tactics. Fabricated property news, misleading claims about market trends, and false identities of sellers and landlords warrant scrutiny. Collaborating with established local property agents remains a prudent approach to gain accurate insights into the market. 

Vigilance extends to verifying the credentials of agents, as fraudulent agents may promise inflated prices or unrealistically low commissions. Checking registration with the relevant authorities, such as the NEAB (Namibia Estate Agents Board), and possession of a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC), is essential to avoid falling victim to scams.

Safeguarding measures: From communication to transaction

False property advertisements, often featuring copied content and unusually low prices, are designed to deceive prospective buyers or renters. Responding only to adverts on legitimate platforms can help evade such traps. Furthermore, engaging in direct communications with buyers or tenants demanding upfront payments or mortgage approvals necessitates careful verification to thwart potential scams.

Remaining cautious when emails, WhatsApp messages, or SMSes arrive is imperative, as cybercriminals frequently exploit these channels. Prioritize verifying the sender's identity and the legitimacy of attachments before taking any action.

Face-to-face interactions with credible agents during property viewings contribute to safer transactions. Entrusting property practitioners to manage viewings and vet visitors minimises security risks associated with unfamiliar individuals.

Lastly, exercising caution when sharing banking information or making payments is crucial. Verifying requests from agents or conveyancers involved in property transactions adds an extra layer of security against financial fraud. 

In the evolving landscape of property transactions, vigilance is the cornerstone of safeguarding one's interests and assets.

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Last modified on Sunday, 03 September 2023 11:16

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