BBC Investigation Finds Zoopla “Facilitated Fraud”

December 8, 2022
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Zoopla is once again in the news for the wrong reasons after a BBC investigation found that the portal facilitated fraud due to its overly lenient onboarding scheme for new agents.

A BBC Radio Four investigation found that Zoopla's 'gaping holes' in its estate agency onboarding rules have enabled sophisticated criminals to attempt to sell up to 20 "stolen properties" across a two-year period from 2020-21.

The portal was used for multiple attempted—and one successful—fraudulent property sales by a fake estate agency, Smith and Jones Estate Agents, which was run by a gang that rented properties legally and then listed them for sale via Zoopla.

The investigation believes Zoopla's onboarding process, which allows new agencies to list properties for sale without pre-approved redress registration, is weak and subject to exploitation.

Zoopla says it will continue to allow new agents to have a transition time between starting up and gaining redress registration—but that it has introduced new security checks and vetting processes to minimise the risk of fraudulent activity on its portal in the future.

The gang behind the so-called Smith and Jones Estate Agents is suspected to be behind the case of a vicar of whose property was successfully sold to an unsuspecting couple in November 2021 while the owner was working away from home. Rev. Mike Hall's home was fraudulently sold for £131,000 with the deal only flagged when neighbours spotted the "new" owners moving in.

Zoopla has faced the ignonimity of entering consultation periods with staff on three separate occasions this year, and recently ruled out a price break for struggling agents alongside OnTheMarket.

December 8, 2022
Harvey is an experienced property journalist and copywriter. He has written about the property industry since 2015, starting at The Property Franchise Group in the UK, before moving to Spain to work for Spotahome. He has blogged for the private rented sector, ghostwritten for UK property experts and written case studies for franchise owners around the UK. Harvey joined Online Marketplaces as a News Editor in 2022.

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