Realtor Impersonated in Latest Scam Involving Deposits to View Homes

SINGAPORE – Since last Monday (March 14), real estate agent Alan Wee, 42, has been receiving two to three calls a day asking about a three-bedroom unit in Tampines.

But Mr. Wee, who specializes in marketing resale properties, has no such list.

After speaking to callers, Mr Wee realized he was the victim of identity theft, with the scammers using his name and profile picture to demand a deposit from potential buyers to view the unit.

Mr Wee, an ERA estate agent, said: “People calling me were anxious as they wanted to know if they had been granted a viewing. I think they must have found my number on websites.

“If you look at the listing it says the unit is 140 square feet. That’s the size of a one bedroom, not a three bedroom unit. It’s a rip off.”

On Tuesday March 22, police confirmed that a report had been filed.

They had warned on Monday of a scam in which criminals pose as real estate agents and ask victims to pay money to get an appointment for a viewing.

The victims would then be given bank account numbers and phone numbers to transfer the sum. They would realize that they have been cheated after the scammers stop contacting them.

The Straits Times understands that at least two real estate agencies – ERA Realty and Huttons Group – have had their agents spoofed.

Since January of this year, at least 144 people have fallen victim to this scam with losses amounting to $190,000.

Speaking to ST on Monday evening, Mr Wee said he reported a fake Tampines unit listing that was posted on Carousell.

Carousell said the seller’s account was suspended based on data suggesting possible impersonation.

Real estate experts said such scams could make a comeback with build-to-order housing projects delayed and condominium and HDB rents rising.

Mr Nicholas Mak, Head of Research and Consulting at ERA Realty, said: “The scammers target those who are less experienced in the property market, such as newly arrived foreigners or young tenants desperate to find a home.

“There is no such practice in the market where the client has to pay a deposit just to view a property.”

Penny D. Jackson