Agents are warned that at least one fraudster claiming affluent foreign connections has been stalking sales of upmarket houses and stealing expensive jewellery during viewings.
In Essex, at least three agents have reported that a man, usually posing as the representative of a wealthy Russian, arranges viewings.
According to one, he calls himself Oleg. He uses four-wheel drive vehicles, is shaven-headed, tall, well spoken, and wears Ray-Bans.
Once at the property, he makes positive noises about the property and asks for time alone to confer with his client on his mobile. The agent, who beats a discreet retreat, then hears what appears to be a conversation in Russian – although some agents have said that the language sounds closer to a middle Eastern tongue.
Later, jewellery is discovered to have been stolen.
Essex police are investigating and we are told that one agent may be able to produce DNA evidence from a drinks can.
In central London, a similar-sounding scam has resulted in the theft of £500,000 worth of jewellery from Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, which has been reported in the national press.
The jewellery was apparently stolen from her £32m mansion after it was viewed by a fake ‘Kazakh millionaire’.
The home of the daughter of F1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone in London’s Belgravia is on the market.
London estate agents have reported in the past few months that a man calling himself Oleg who wears sunglasses has viewed several other multi-million pound properties.
One agent said ‘Oleg’ had turned up in a chauffeur-driven Bentley and never removed his sunglasses; he is now not responding to phone calls on the numbers he had supplied.
The agent added: “This theft has now been relayed among the people who work in this property market.”
Essex police are advising agents and owners that they should accompany viewers at all times.
Agents everywhere beware. Scammers have a habit of moving around.