The rise of cyber-crime has led to a whole new breed of property scammers…
Action Fraud has issued a warning to anyone looking for a property to rent. It says there is an increasing number of fraudsters operating online, masquerading as landlords with the aim of scamming people out of money.
Rising Number of Fraud Cases
28 cases were reported in the three months ending February 2019. The total loss amounted to nearly £20k. It’s a simple fraud, but one that is proving to be extremely profitable for fraudsters. How it works is simple.
The fraudster creates a bogus property ad online. The would-be tenant contacts the “landlord” and expresses an interest. They are then asked to pay a deposit to secure the property. Since there is no property, the renter is persuaded that a viewing isn’t necessary and probably given some spiel along the lines of “if you don’t pay a deposit immediately, I’ll have to let the property to someone else…” Some fraudsters also ask for a month’s rent in advance.
The victim pays the deposit, which is supposedly directed into a Deposit Protection Scheme. The fraudster then sends a bogus email to say the deposit is now protected. They then disappear into the ether, and at some point in the not too distant future, the tenant discovers they have no money and no property.
“Devious fraudsters are targeting a whole host of victims, from university students to professionals, for their own selfish gain,” says Action Fraud.
It’s a despicable offence. Often, renters are left desperate, with nowhere to go. The money they had saved is now missing presumed lost and they may not have the means to secure another rental home.
The TDS has issued some advice to anyone asked to send a deposit.
“If anyone has any queries or isn’t sure about whether or not the process they’re being asked to follow is correct, they can contact TDS who will be more than happy to guide them.”
Tips from Action Fraud
Action Fraud also has some useful tips. It suggests you don’t hand over money unless you have viewed a property in person and have valid paperwork, such as a tenancy agreement.
If you think you have been scammed by a bogus landlord, report the crime to Action Fraud.
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