The Property Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of warning all estate and letting agents to act with caution over fraudulent ‘buyers’ who are trying to spread computer virus scams.
A statement issued yesterday evening said: “TPO has been alerted to a case by a member agent who received emails from a potential buyer in China. The individual emailed the branch several times expressing a keen interest to make a full asking price offer on a property.
“The agent, suspicious of the buyer’s eagerness to act quickly without having viewed the property, asked the individual to send over all personal details including identification documents.
“When the email came through, the attachments were difficult to open. The agent passed the email to his IT department who confirmed that it contained a series of potentially destructive computer viruses.
“It is not known what impact the viruses could have had on the agent’s IT system if it had not been identified.”
Gerry Fitzjohn, TPO’s board chairman, says that fortunately in this case the scam was spotted and no company or customer details were compromised.
But he adds: “However, this is a reminder to all agents to be both cautious and vigilant. The importance of antivirus software is a given, but it is not a guarantee against computer viruses, so the best defence is also an educated user. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. We would urge all agents to circulate this warning amongst staff.”