In just 2 months at the start of 2019 fraudsters posing as private residential landlords have blatantly stolen £20,000 from unsuspecting tenants seeking new accommodation. The scam involves the fraudsters posting as landlords and taking money as “advance rent and deposits” off unsuspecting would-be tenants.
Action Fraud says it has received numerous complaints from victims who have been conned by the scammers. They are using websites which advertise enticing looking rental properties at bargain rates, claiming to be genuine online landlords.
They advertise properties that either don’t exist, they may have already been let, or they are letting them to multiple victims. Sometimes they are being illegally sub-let.
Students moving to cities and particularly those coming from abroad are often the ones targeted by the scammers.
This is the advice to students and would-be tenants given out by Action Fraud:
Protect yourself from rental fraud:
Do not send money to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine.
If you need to secure accommodation in the UK from overseas, seek the help of the employer or university you are coming to, or get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available.
Do not pay any money until you or a reliable contact has visited the property with an agent or the landlord.
Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence.
Do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a bank account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly after the above steps have been followed. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer any money via a money transfer service like Western Union.