Ontario regulator urges vigilance as fraudsters pose as homeowners to sell properties

TORONTO — An Ontario regulator is warning real estate brokers and agents to be vigilant for fraudsters impersonating homeowners looking to sell properties.

The Real Estate Council of Ontario issued a notice this week amid reports those fraud claims are on the rise, with one insurance investigator saying his firm was looking into several Ontario cases.

The council, which regulates real estate professionals, says valuable real estate can be a “prime target” for “sophisticated criminals”.

It says registrants who fail to verify a client’s identity could face a disciplinary suspension and fines of up to $50,000.

The council tells professionals to verify a client’s ID and be “vigilant” for any inconsistencies, such as errors in names, email addresses, or other unusual mistakes.

It says other red flags include a homeowner looking for a quick sale or an unusually low sale price for no valid reason.

Insurance investigator Brian King told The Canadian Press last month his firm had received 30 Ontario claims of fraudsters impersonating homeowners and tenants.

He says six of those were instances of “total title fraud”, where con artists pose as homeowners to list properties for sale.

While he says those cases used to rare, his firm has seen a recent spike in inquiries.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2023.

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