Scammers are trying to steal money from tenants by falsely offering access to properties that they actually don’t own.
WA ScamNet said two people had reported almost falling victim to fake Gumtree ads that seemed to have been placed by the owner – but which had actually been placed by scammers copying legitimate listings on realestate.com.au and real estate agent websites.
“The scammers are posing as home owners and using information from websites to lure tenants in to pay upfront for two weeks’ rent and a bond,” according to the government watchdog.
“Both prospective tenants stated that they went and viewed the properties, as the scammers advised that their properties were listed for rent on other websites.
“The scammers would then state that they were willing to offer the property at a lesser amount in an attempt to get the tenant to go through them directly rather than going through the legitimate real estate company.”
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WA ScamNet said the scammers gave direct debit details to the two potential victims.
However, neither paid, because they first contacted the real estate agencies to verify who owned the properties and to ask where to send their paperwork.
“Both prospective tenants were told that the people they were talking to were not the owners of the properties, and that the pictures sent to them of the property had been taken from the real estate websites, with the logos removed.”
How to stay one step ahead of scammers
WA ScamNet said there are three signs that scammers are offering you a rental property:
- They ask for a relatively low amount of rent
- They won’t speak on the phone or meet in person
- They use free email services (like Gmail or Hotmail)
The watchdog also offered tenants these four pieces of advice:
- Don’t hand over money before any exchange of contract or keys
- Only deal with real estate agencies or landlords you can meet face-to-face
- Do an online search of the address to see if the property is being rented out by a legitimate agent
- Never solely rely on photos