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Dominique Grubisa: Still making fools of her followers

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Dominque Grubisa is the subject of proceedings brought by the ACCC (Screenshot via YouTube)

Dominique Grubisa, already the subject of proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct, continues to 'lead on' her followers. IA reports.

DOMINIQUE GRUBISA has announced a series of seminars in a number of capital cities this month and in July. The Proptech Velocity Program kicks off in Melbourne on 24 June, followed by seminars in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. The Property Mavericks Live Summit starts in Sydney on 1 July.

The "live summit" is a revamped version of Grubisa’s long-running strategies of finding off-market distressed property deals. It comes off the back of her 5-day distressed property challenge held last month. 

As IA exposed in August 2020, Grubisa’s strategies involved trawling court lists to identify people facing repossession of their homes, etcetera, before matching up their personal information from state/territory land databases, then contacting those people to try to get their properties on the cheap.

For years, Grubisa’s strategies also included targeting parties to family law proceedings — conduct that the Family Court referred to the Australian Federal Police. 

Those who sign up for the higher ticket elite mentoring program have the work of trawling the court lists done for them by receiving lists of the names and addresses of vulnerable people. 

In February last year, Grubisa removed the word “divorce” from her off-market lists, replacing it with “motivated owner”. Nothing in the family law list identifies a proceeding as a divorce case.  

Grubisa currently relies on the platforms of Stash Property and National Property Group (formerly National Property Data) and includes subscriptions to these services as part of her programs. In the case of Stash Property, its platform is white-labelled under the name Fast Property. Stash Property recently announced it was now making National Property Group’s data available within its platform (with a discounted price for a subscription to Stash Property). 

A recent joiner to Stash Property’s team is Colin Wilson, who has joined as “head of product”. Wilson was formerly the president of the Value Added Property Information Broker Association (VAPIBA) and held senior roles with Domain Group

As his LinkedIn profile notes, VAPIBA is the entity that supports the operation and administration of the Personal Identification Information in Property Data Code of Conduct (PIIPD): the code established to protect personal identification details of Queensland property owners and to stop unsolicited direct marketing using Queensland Valuation and Sales (QVAS) data — the very thing Grubisa does and promotes to her “students”.

Grubisa uploads lists of distressed homeowners to the Fast Property (Stash Property) platform for her students to target. The very same activity that led to Stash Property’s competitor Archistar severing ties with Grubisa’s business last year. Archistar told Financial Review it deplored the act of using property data in a predatory manner. 

The names and addresses of distressed homeowners are sourced via data licensed by various state government departments and agencies. As previously reported, the terms of agreements in each case expressly prohibit the use of personal information for direct marketing purposes. 

Grubisa tells her students to avoid using the homeowner’s name on the envelope – even if known – maintaining:

'Letters are integral to your Real Estate Rescue activity — whether sending to homeowners using the courts' lists or as part of your [the student’s] area expert activity.'

The restrictions on direct marketing are not only in the terms of licence agreements but are also reflected in the privacy policies of the agencies that licence the use of the data.

In Queensland, the procedure for disclosing “personal information” under the Land Valuation Act 2010 states [IA emphasis]:

'The Personal Identification in Property Data Code of Conduct (the Code) is designed to help protect the personal identification details of Queensland property owners and to stop unsolicited direct marketing using valuation roll data.'

In its privacy statement, Landgate (which administers the contracts in Western Australia with value-added resellers such as National Property Group) reassures the public that:

'Disclosure to and use by third parties is controlled by contractual obligations that require your personal information to only be used for specific purposes, not for direct marketing, and require third parties to comply with any privacy obligations set by Landgate'.

Grubisa’s own students have spoken of the types of responses they have received from distressed homeowners they have contacted.

Said one "student" on Facebook (since removed):

'Over 1,000 letters to stressed owners and no results… It is a waste of time and money. The only replies I have had are people threatening me for invading their privacy.'

An "elite mentoring graduate" said in a testimonial that sits on the homepage of Grubisa's DG Institute:

'So, we go out there and we talk with vendors, and many times we get just difficult kind of responses that say, “Don’t call us again; don’t send letters again".'

[Editor's note: After the publication of this story, this homepage testimonial was amended to remove the quoted section above. The original testimonial can be viewed HERE.]

Even journalists from the short-lived Your Money channel – a failed joint venture between Australian News Channel Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of News Corp) and Nine Entertainment –struggled with Grubisa's activities. 

In what was clearly a PR-promoted puff piece at best on the (now defunct) channel, the hosts sounded out Grubisa about her "strategy":

Said host Chris Kohler:

"Right, so it sounds to me a little bit like... you know... ah... it sounds to be a bit of a ruthless strategy here if you are a buyer. You are looking for perhaps divorced people… What other kinds of situations can lead to a property being distressed? And is it this ruthless sort of strategy that it feels like?"

Host Brooke Corte responded:

"It’s kind of ambulance chasing for the property market, right?"

To which Kohler replied:

"Yeah, exactly, Brooke."

In her Real Estate Rescue manual – at p127 – Grubisa says to expect suspicious and paranoid questions when contacted by an owner.  

She writes:

'Expect aggression and bring them to the focal point (the rest is irrelevant) — do you want to sell? Some people are just too difficult. You don’t need to bow and scrape with these people.'

Grubisa, who tells her students, “You know me, I’m just fire, ready, aim, shoot from the hip…” might wish to read for herself, among other things, what direct marketing means under the PIIPD — under the terms of the data contract with the Qld State Government and the terms of Landgate’s contract

In her marketing for an upcoming seminar series, Grubisa tells her audience she has been investing heavily in Proptech for her community: 

'...literally bordering on an obsession.'

She says this was done 'often by trial and error', changing suppliers and signing up for new data and technologies. Grubisa’s changing of suppliers was not by choice. Her previous suppliers, CoreLogic, Archistar and, indirectly, Domain Group – whose data was available to subscribers of Archistar through a plug-in with a paid subscription to Domain’s Pricefinder – cut her off. Grubisa’s business then sued CoreLogic for severing ties. 

Of course, Grubisa – whom the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASICdescribed as 'having a habit of not telling the truth' – doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. 

Grubisa’s staff member Gabrielle Klopper, told Grubisa’s students in a webinar last October:

We will no longer be using our past providers. You might be asking why? Well, 'client first' is one of our core values and we want to be sure that we are always delivering top-quality information to our students. We did receive customer feedback that our past software wasn’t giving them the information that they needed, so we’ve decided to make the swap.

Of course, Grubisa’s business had no choice but to change her data suppliers because her past providers severed ties with her business.

In the same training video, another staff member, Jason Chittenden, explained to Grubisa’s students how to match up names of distressed homeowners on court lists with personal information through National Property Group’s platform.

As IA reported in September last year, Grubisa also uses data to target potential downsizers. The source of this data is unknown, but it is not what is claimed.

In a training video for the Fast Property platform, Chittenden said:

“… downsizers, is [sic] over '65s. So, taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics data to say these people are over 65.” 

However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not provide personal information on individual homeowners.

You might rightfully ask, what are regulators doing about these issues?

In March, in response to questions on notice put by Senator David Shoebridge, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) said:

'The Commissioner is currently considering information regarding the acts and practices of Ms Dominique Grubisa and Master Wealth Control Pty Ltd t/as DG Institute to determine whether it is desirable to open a Commissioner-initiated investigation under the "Privacy Act 1988" (Cth).'

The response also noted that the OAIC had written to Grubisa in November last year asking her to review her conduct to ensure compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles.

Yet, here again, is Grubisa in a video off the back of her recent 5-day distressed property challenge, telling people how she will provide them with the personal details of distressed homeowners (35 minutes and 30 seconds in).

IA understands there are investigations being undertaken across a number of states into the misuse of personal information utilised by Grubisa’s businesses and her students.  

Grubisa, who often describes herself as a "fire, ready, aim" sort of person, of course, backs herself in and uses pop psychology to convince her students to go for it.

In a recent video, Grubisa said:

You need the best data. You need to back yourself with belief. And that’s going to come from doing the hard work. You think about it. If you know something better than anyone else, then... and you’ve done the work... you don’t feel guilty about it. You don’t feel unsure. In fact, think of a time when someone’s told you something that you knew was wrong. Did you ever go, 'oh, I’ve got that wrong', or did you think, 'no, mate, don’t try and pull one over on me'.

Grubisa, always convinced of her own brilliance, continues to double down.

Meanwhile, ASIC maintains she has a habit of not telling the truth. The ACCC alleges she has misled countless people. The Australian Tax Office has warned about her advice regarding superannuation.

When will it be that those charged with protecting the privacy of the public follow the steps of other regulatory counterparts and step up? It is long overdue.

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