Some desperate Aussie renters have been left broke and homeless after falling for cruel scammers who have turned to pushing fake properties.

Consumer Protection has had 18 reports of rental scams, one recent case saw a mum and her four children homeless after losing $3,600 ($2,000 bond and $1,600 rent) to a scammer who was advertising a Perth property on Facebook Marketplace.

“The scammers could also say that tenants are currently living in the property so advised to just do a drive-by inspection,” they said, which is what happened in this case.

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.

In another recent case, a young mum lost $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 (WA), the ad and the fake landlord’s email address disappeared. 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,” she said.

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“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 Scamwatch.
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