MoneyMagpie

May 05

Property scammers are still at it.

Ugh! These scams make me mad!

I know people who have nearly been duped by this particular rental property scam. They nearly lost a lot of money.

Property consultants at LettingAProperty.com say they have been undercover to check out a dodgy-sounding ‘landlord’ just recently

Apparently someone submitted a 1-bedroomed fully furnished property in expensive Canary Wharf (London) for a mere £100 per week! Now, frankly, that very fact should make you worried to start with. That’s FAR too cheap, even for a nasty little studio in that area.

So, one of their consultants, posing as a tenant, contacted the landlord.  Firstly he found that even though the ‘landlord’ was using a traditional English sounding email address, his language and grammar was not of English origin and the contact telephone number was diverted to a ‘Lebara’ voice mail, commonly used for international numbers. In other words, he was probably on the other side of the world.

The ‘landlord’, who said he was based in Ireland, asked for cash to be sent to cover rent and deposits via Western Union to a friend and to forward a copy of the telegraphic transfer upon completion.

This is where the warning bells should be deafening you. Although Western Union is a perfectly legitimate company, it is regularly used by fraudsters because it’s about sending cash from person to person, avoiding banks. The money is very hard to trace and easy to move around. It’s a service that is a gift to scammers.

The consultant googled the landlords email address ([email protected]) – clever idea by the way – and he discovered it had already shown up as a scammer on another property forum.

This is one of the joys of the internet. You can often find out about scams before you’re hooked just by putting a name, phrase, phone number or email address into Google. Sometimes one of them will come up in a forum that’s warning people against them. Handy.

This rental property scam is generally found on internet sites like Gumtree, Craigslist, and pretty much any property rental site you look at. Lots of people are doing it, sadly.

Last year, the Property Ombudsman received over 5,000 complaints from tenants affected by these scams.  Last week one teenage fraudster, Cameron Corsie, son of former world champion bowler, Richard Corsie was sentenced to a 2-year prison sentence after admitting to 17 charges of fraud and one attempted fraud, amassing £15,765 for his seven month crime spree.  Cameron  posed as a landlord taking rents and deposits from unsuspecting tenants, mainly students. The teenager also obtained £22,000 from a previous series of frauds for which he served an eight month custodial sentence.

Basically, as with anything, if a rental property sounds to be good to be true, it probably is.  Because of economic factors and shortage of housing the residential rental sector is an attractive target for scammers. Beware!

It’s essential that you check out any potential landlord and property before handing over cash and under no circumstance should money be forwarded by Western Union or any other form of telegraphic transfer.

Certainly never to hand over any money until you are completely satisfied with the legitimacy of the agreement and when in doubt, ask the landlord to provide you with proof of ID including:

·Proof of ownership – such as a mortgage statement or deeds

·Proof of ID – A copy of the landlord’s passport or driver’s licence and a utility bill dated within the last 3 months.

Oh, and tell all your friends, particularly students or foreign nationals who aren’t familiar with local prices and rules, to watch out when looking through the small ads.

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