Tenants who are desperate to secure a rental property in the current tight market are being targeted by scammers with many thousands of dollars being lost and Consumer Protection urging caution before handing over money.
So far this year 18 reports of rental scams have been received with five people losing a total of $7,200. In two recent cases:
- A mother and her four children are now homeless after losing $3,600 ($2,000 bond and $1,600 rent) to a scammer who was advertising a Clarkson property on Facebook Marketplace. The mother never met the fake landlord and didn’t view the property inside, but did drive past the property. When she went to move in on the agreed date, the keys were not in the agreed spot and found the home was occupied by tenants who had an agreement with the legitimate property agent. A report has been lodged with Facebook to have the ad removed.
- A young mother with one child has been forced to move back to living with her mother in Armadale after losing a $1,800 bond payment when responding to an advertisement on Facebook Marketplace. As soon as the payment was made for a property in Piara Waters, the ad disappeared and the fake landlord’s email account was deleted. There was no inspection of the property.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping has urged tenants looking for rentals not to send money for properties they haven’t inspected.
“Responding to online classified ads or social media posts is very risky, so prospective tenants need to at least view the property and meet the landlord or their agent before handing over any money,” Ms Chopping said.
“Often the scammers will say that they are overseas or interstate so they can’t physically meet or show them the property, but will leave the keys hidden outside for them to gain access after a bond and rent in advance are paid.
“The scammers could also say that tenants are currently living in the property so advised to just do a drive-by inspection. They may ask for identification documents to be sent which may expose the victims to identity theft.
“These heartless scammers are exploiting the desperation of tenants who may face being homeless unless they can secure a rental and the victims can least afford to lose money to fraudsters.
“To be safe, we would recommend people considering renting properties unseen to go through a licensed real estate or property management agency rather than responding to online ads. That way they can be assured the property being offered is a genuine rental.”
TIPS TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED:
- Be suspicious of properties being rented for well below the current rental value.
- Never solely rely on photos provided to you. Do a reverse image search.
- Search the address online to see if the property exists or if it is listed by a different agency.
- Only deal with landlords you can meet face-to-face, or go through a licensed real estate agent.
- Always inspect the property prior to signing a lease agreement or paying money.
- Ensure you receive the keys and a copy of the signed lease agreement in exchange for any funds you have agreed to pay.
- Be careful if asked to pay funds via direct bank transfer unless you are sure the payment is to a licensed real estate agent.
- If in doubt – contact WA ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54.
General information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website