Another Colonel Michael Warner accommodation scam triggers fine for incompetent Perth agent

Another Colonel Michael Warner accommodation scam triggers fine for incompetent Perth agent
Another Colonel Michael Warner accommodation scam triggers fine for incompetent Perth agent

A Perth property manager has been fined $2500 after falling for a Scarborough holiday accommodation booking scam.

The scammer posed as "Colonel Michael Warner" in 2015 when he contacted the Scarborough real estate agency to make a booking for short-term rental residential apartments.

Consumer Protection WA said the name "Colonel Michael Warner" had been used previously in other Nigerian-based scams.

"Mr Warner" asked to make a booking for three groups at the apartments, totalling $53,449.

When he attempted to make the booking, the scammer attempted to use seven credit cards, with three declined, but leasing agent Vicki Ms Redfern went ahead with his requests.

At the scammer's request, Ms Redfern then transferred $25,138 and $20,066 from the agency's trust account to third parties in order to pay for "translation and tour guide services" the scammer wanted to use.

Ms Redfern's co-worker told her the requests seemed suspicious, but she went ahead.

The money Ms Redfern transferred has never been recovered, the Stirling Times website advised.

Consumer Protection WA brought disciplinary action against Ms Redfern following the incident, claiming she had:

  • failed to ensure the caller completed and returned agency forms in respect to the booking
  • failed to follow the agency's practice of holding deposits in the trust account until all guests left the accommodation
  • ​failed to verify the identity of the credit card holders
  • failed to verify the identities of the third party "translation and tour guide agencies"
  • and failed to let her agency's owner know about the major transactions.

Consumer Protection WA commissioner David Hillyard said it was all due to the "incompetence" of an employee.

"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," he said.

"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."

The scam left her real estate agency $45,000 out-of-pocket.

The State Administrative Tribunal found Vicki Redfern had "failed to exercise due skill, care and diligence."

It noted the agency lacked sufficient internal procedures and staff training regarding fraud prevention, including a lack of formal induction training, procedure manuals and use of written instructions.

Tags: 
Perth Scam

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