We’ve all heard or experienced the horror stories, tenants starting their own DIY drug labs, visa holders skipping town two months into a one year lease or tenants who just simply can’t afford their rent – but how can you be sure that your applicant is who they say they are without verifying the documents they’ve provided?
How is identity fraud & identity theft impacting Real Estate agents?
In today’s ever-changing world, technology advances are making it even easier for criminals to commit identity theft (taking over someone’s identity) or identity fraud (creating a fake identity). In fact, one in four Australians claim to have been the victim of identity theft![i]
This poses significant issues in the real estate space as criminals attempt to lease properties to fabricate their fake identity and allow them to do either of two things:
- Use the property for illegal purposes (e.g. start a drug lab) or
- Use the property as their main address to commit other crimes (e.g. apply for a mortgage, car loan, credit cards etc)
The only real way to make sure you’re avoiding these applicants is to make sure you screen them correctly.
Already screen your tenants with a tenancy database?
Tenancy screening databases are great, however not all of them are made equal and may give you misleading information. This occurs because most tenancy screening databases will only search their own records to see if anyone has checked on that applicant previously.
What this means is that if an applicant gives you a fake name (even by just ONE letter) or purchases a fake identity (fakies.com.au for example), most tenancy databases will lead you to believe the identity is real as they can’t find a previous record in their own system.
This is when it gets interesting!
Recent changes to Residential Tenancy Acts across Australia mean that all blacklisted or lodged tenants in a database must be notified prior to lodgement – so if an applicant knows they’ve been listed, why would they provide their real identity when applying for their next property? And even more worrying, who is going to use their real identity if their intentions are to commit a serious crime?
So what can you do to help ensure you’re getting the right tenants?
- Screen your applicants using a tenancy database that includes free identity and document verification so you can be sure of who you are dealing with.
- Take care when looking over photo identification as this can be easily manipulated
- Always check references carefully ( these can be falsified!)
- If still unsure – ask the tenant for additional information.
Part of the Veda Group, the National Tenancy Database has been working with real estate agents across Australia for years, to deliver reliable tenant checking and connection services with real time identity and document verification across more than 22 different databases.
[i] Identity Theft in Australia and Australia’s View of Personal Information Security. Veda Group. Online Survey by The Leading Edge. n = 1,047 Australians aged 18+. September 2015