Lettings Agents And Tenant Applicants Are Falling Victim
To A New Wave Of Online Fraudsters
Last week we learnt of the latest scam to affect the global property lettings industry and it could happen to any innocent lettings and property management agents out there, and what is worse it also affects any applicant for renting too!
It’s not only distressing and frustrating for the tenant applicants but it can be very damaging for the lettings agents businesses.
The basis of the new property scam is that criminals create the impression of being a legitimate letting agent by stealing and duplicating a decent and honest letting agents branding, logo’s and in effect clone their identity.
The original agent’s office number might be shown as a secondary telephone number below a mobile number, but calls are directed towards the mobile number rather than a land line..
The fake agent (in this case impersonating a reputable lettings agency) then posts property adverts on available property portals at keen monthly rental prices.
As prospective tenants call wanting an early viewing as the monthly rental price seems to good to be true, the clone agent insists on a fee being paid to secure an early preferential viewing.
The fake letting agent entices the prospective tenants to get in quick, in order to save £100-200 off the monthly rental price and for the privilege of getting preferential treatment a holding fee is required. The money (holding fee) gets paid via online means, yet no one turns up to show the keen tenant applicants around the rental property.
After feeling let down and angry the applicants fail to get a response from the mobile number and eventually the angry applicants contact the real letting agent’s office number (which was made to appear secondary).The fake agent is now out of the picture taking the applicants cash with them, leaving the real letting agents to face the fallout.
The scam isn’t confined to one Country, incidents have been reported in the UK, Europe and the USA. The scam is very frustrating for all lettings agents and would be applicants but also puts the agents reputation on the line, leaving the scam artist clear to dupe their next victim.
Scammed letting agents and duped applicants need to highlight any incidents to the Property Ombudsman and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) as soon as they become aware of a property scam, early action may help catch these fraudsters and protect the reputation of the lettings agents involved. The hope is that the scam artist can be tracked down and stopped, leaving the honest agents in the clear and able to get on building their business, rather than fending off misled angry consumers.
Most reputable lettings and property managing agents will never ask prospective tenants for reservation fees before the applicant has even viewed the rental property and administration fees are only payable when prospective tenants indicate that they want the rental property and wish to proceed with the application.
If multiple telephone numbers of letting agents are offered with the rental property details, please telephone the national number offered with the advert, or conduct your own due diligence and search for the agent’s office number on the web, NEVER call a mobile number.
Check all the rental properties offered on the portal by the same agent to see if any of the contact details are different, and please remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is!
Lettings Agents & Tenant Applicants – Dont get scammed use your common sense and if in doubt check it out!
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