Beware: FAKE landlords are tricking UK renters out of thousands of pounds with elaborate new scams.
Scams that target renters are nothing new but as ‘fake landlords’ see the desperation in the rental market they’re looking to cash in on the most vulnerable. Many renters are finding the rental market increasingly competitive so may be missing out on properties they’ve seen and set their hearts on – it is this that is leading to a lack of judgement, leaving them vulnerable to scams.
Long gone are the days when scams were fairly transparent as ‘fake landlords’ increasingly up the ante to make their scams more elaborate. A new scam that is plaguing renters this year appears to be ‘landlords’ charging potential tenants a viewing deposit before they can come and see the property in the flesh. If you hadn’t guessed already – typically the ‘landlord’ behind this doesn’t own the property or have any associations to it and in some cases the property doesn’t even exist. The reason the ‘fake landlord’ gives for this deposit is to ensure the potential tenants turns up as they’ve been let down by others. Alarm bells should be ringing as soon as there’s a mention of money before a property has been seen however due to the competiveness of the rental market some people may be blindsided by the appeal of the property and rush in to make a terrible and costly mistake.
How to avoid rental fraud?
By following a few simple rules you can reduce your chances of being a victim of rental fraud:
– Never send money to any one renting property until you can verify that they’re genuine
– Do not hand over any money until you’ve been shown around the property by the landlord or tenancy agency
– Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence
– Check the person renting actually owns the property, using the Land Registry Database
– If you have the means – pay via credit card to give yourself Section 75 protection
What to do if you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud?
If you believe you have or may have been a victim of fraud it’s important that you act fast:
– Contact you bank – if a bank transfer, debit or credit card is involved they may be able to stop the transaction. The bank may then increase your security to stop any further fraudulent transactions
– You should report the crime to Action Fraud using its online reporting tool or by calling 0300 123 2040
– Call 999 if there is a crime being committed right now, or you think you may be in danger.