Scammers are taking advantage of the increase in virtual viewings to con would-be renters into paying for non-existent properties.
North Yorkshire police report that they’re dealing with growing complaints from people who’ve handed over advance payments for rent on flats and houses advertised on Facebook.
Fake landlords use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for prospective tenants being unable to view the property in person and instead send photos and promise to send keys in the post once they agree to move in.
However, the properties never materialise as the ‘landlord’ vanishes once payments have been made, the keys never arrive and all contact is cut off.
In fact, renters around the country are relying more on virtual viewings, according to the latest Goodlord rental sector review, which found that 32% of renters would make an offer on a property they had only viewed virtually.
North Yorkshire police financial investigator, Kevin Ross, says while this type of fraud isn’t new, the pandemic has given scammers an excuse to hide behind.
He adds: “This is a tactic we saw used a few years ago but then it seems to have had a resurgence with scammers finding yet another way to take advantage of the current situation with Covid-19.
“Not only has it already resulted in victims losing hundreds of pounds but it’s also meant in some cases they have been left with nowhere to live, having given notice on their current properties.”
These sorts of scams could encourage the Government to seriously consider proposals for landlord registration in England – something that’s already in place in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.