With the internet making it easy for illegal brokers and scammers to carry out fraudulent activities, the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) advised Sarawakians to deal only with Registered Estate Agents (REA), Probationary Estate Agents (PEA) or Real Estate Negotiators (REN) to protect their interest in property transactions.
MIEA Sarawak Chairperson Dato Alex Ting said illegal brokers and scammers use fake identities and fake property listings which appears to be too good to be true to persuade unsuspecting victims into paying a deposit for a deal, reported The Borneo Post.
“As they are unregistered with the Board of Valuers, Appraisers, Estate Agents and Property Managers (BOVAEP), the victims are not protected and risk losing their money if they choose to deal with them,” Ting told The Borneo Post.
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“Another type of scam that has been rising involved cases with fake property investment schemes. Fake property investment gurus will lure you in by promising very high returns.”
He added that some use fraudulent tactics like using shell companies that issue fake pay slips so that the property buyer can obtain financing from banks.
“If somethings seem too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.
He noted that a person who violates section 22(c) commits an offense under Section 30(i) of the Act and could be imprisoned for up to three years or fined by up to RM300,000 or both.
And while the Act 242 or Valuers, Appraisers, and Estate Agents Act 1981 have strict rules and regulations in place, Ting believes that cases involving illegal brokers and scammers will continue to increase.
This comes as unscrupulous parties “will continue to exploit the loopholes in the system”.
“However, I understand BOVAEP will be sending their Investigating Officers (IOs) to Sarawak in the near future to raid and arrest such illegal agents and practices,” he said.
“The MIEA has launched a public awareness campaign called #MYREALAGENTS to bring awareness and educate the public on the dangers of dealing with these parties.”
He explained that every property advertisement should show the RENs name and registration number as well as the name of the firm and registration numbers, among others.
“It is important to only deal with REAs, PEAs or RENs as they are governed by BOVAEP. They must have a REN or PEA tag at all times and the public should always verify if they are registered on http://search.lppeh.gov.my before dealing with them.”
He also warned the public against depositing money into a person’s individual account for a property transaction.
“Instead it should be deposited into a firm’s clients account where the money is protected by a professional indemnity insurance, and the firm must also report to BOVAEP annually on the client’s account.”
To curb the problem, he urged the public to lodge a report with the police and the BOVEAP for any activity undertaken by illegal brokers.