Over the years, various rental scams have been created particularly with various DIY advertising portals which have become available to the layman renting out his property. According to Sunell Afrika, rentals manager at SAProperty.com, fake adverts and landlords have reared their ugly heads more frequently.
One scam in particular keeps circulating; one would think it has ‘done its time’ and that people would be aware but according to Afrika, people are still being fleeced out of sizeable deposits and being far too trusting.
The typical scam is of a property which is advertised to rent, possibly at a lower rental than the norm and when a potential tenant responds to the ad (in most cases via email), the scamster responds saying that there has been a huge response to the advert and that the application – with a deposit – should be submitted immediately to avoid disappointment. There have been some reports of application forms being emailed through, requesting tenants’ bank details which would never be requested from a legitimate agent or landlord. The fraudster will mention that he / she is out of town and that the keys can be collected from a third party as soon as the deposit has been paid over. Usually, the details and the photos of the particular property have been stolen from another advert place online, and if one insists on viewing the property first, the fraudster will discontinue the conversation and then block all further contact if communication was via SMS.
Another strange scam which has come to the attention of SAproperty.com, is that of a tenant advertising on social media (or on other portals), looking for accommodation. A person will email or text the unsuspecting tenant mentioning that they have something suitable and providing a vague address. Again, mentioning that they are out of town and that the keys can be collected once the deposit has been paid. They will mention that the payment needs to be made to a money market account or via cardless withdrawal at an ATM and if pressed for photos of the property, they will send through fake photos taken from someone else’s website. As with the other scams, if they are pushed for a viewing of the property, they will say that the property has been taken and block all future attempts of communication.
There has also been a holiday let scam; short term lets are advertised, once more with information and photos stolen and the fraudster will ask for a booking deposit to be paid. When the person arrives to take occupation of his / her holiday let, he / she finds it to be a fictitious let.
“The first important thing to remember, is that if any advert seems too good to be true (price wise or location) it isn’t and, secondly, that it is vital that you physically view a property with the owner or rental agent before agreeing to pay any money over. While it is understandable that it isn’t always possible to physically view a short term let, as this would be holiday accommodation, rather book through reputable booking services or agents specialising in this field. Never give out bank details or agree to pay money via an untraceable account, and double check the adverts you respond to by viewing the address on Google Earth or Maps as a cross reference. Ultimately, it is best to deal with a rental agent, as they have to registered with the Estate Agency Affairs board and will have a Fidelity Fund Certificate as proof that they are operating legitimately,” concludes Afrika.