Scammers are targeting people looking for rental accommodation.They demand deposits for properties that aren’t on the market and in some cases don’t even exist.
The average loss is £2,400, according to research by TheHouseShop.com.
Reported cases of rental fraud surged by 44% in 2015. Some 3,193 incidents were recorded by City of London Police, which leads the fight against fraud in the UK.
However, the true number of cases could be far higher.The Local Government Association says 95% of cases aren’t reported, as most victims are embarrassed about being conned.
Part of the problem is the growing number of people renting through online classified adverts, says Nick Marr, co-founder of TheHouseShop.com: ”Scammers have become highly sophisticated, and it isn’t always easy to spot fake or misleading ads – even manual vetting of adverts can still allow bogus ads to slip through the net.”
To combat the problem, TheHouseShop.com has developed an owner verification system using Land Registry data that makes it easier for would-be tenants to find genuine listings.
Beat the scammers
Moneywise's top tips to avoid the fraudsters
- Watch out for suspiciously cheap deals. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Avoid ads that claim the landlord is abroad.
- Don’t sign or pay anything until you’ve seen the property and met the landlord or estate agent.
- Use the web to root out dodgy ads. Does the flat appear on Google maps? Google images will let you check if pictures are stock photos from the web.