Rental fraud has cost Brits more than £22m since April 2014, according to Action Fraud. This type of scam happens when a victim is tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property. Fraudsters are smart, but there are tell-tale signs to make sure you don’t get caught in a con.
What should I look out for?
Seen an advert for a rental property that looks too good to be true? Chances are it could be a scam. Though these lettings might seem genuine and be accompanied by photos and contact information, they usually do not exist. Sometimes they’ve already been rented out, or have been falsely ‘rented out’ to several victims.
Students are prime targets, particularly in July and August when there’s a large number looking for a place to live.
Typically the fraudster will contact victims online about a property and ask for money in advance of arranging a viewing. They usually say the funds are required in order to secure the property, or due to people cancelling viewings in the past.
Victims will lose the fee they paid and will not be able to view or rent the property they thought they had secured.
Dos & don’ts of rental fraud
- Trust ads that seem too good to be true
- Pay any money until you, or a reliable contact, has viewed the property with a letting agent or landlord
- Send cash over anonymous money transfer services
- Accept an emailed scan of ID from someone you haven’t met
- Check the person renting the property is the owner by using the Land Registry Database. It costs £3 to do an online search
- Check their bank account isn’t a money transfer service by using an online sort-code checker
- Pay via credit card if you can – the Section 75 laws mean your credit card must protect purchases over £100 for free
- Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as gas and electricity
If you suspect an ad is a scam, report it to the website it appears on and Action Fraud. They will be able to act.