Fake rental properties and shared accommodation listings

20 August 2008

Prospective tenants are being ripped off by fake rental property and shared accommodation listings on the internet posted by scammers.

SCAMwatch is warning prospective tenants to be wary when responding to rental properties advertised on the net where the 'owner' makes various excuses as to why you can't inspect the property but insists on an upfront payment for rent or deposit.

Scammers will often use various shared accommodation sites to post these fake listings. They will go to great lengths to ensure that the offer looks genuine by including photos and real addresses of properties. However, photos and details of properties can be easily obtained on the internet.

Once hooked, the scammer will request money, often via money transfer, or personal details upfront to 'secure' the rental property. SCAMwatch warns consumers not to send money or provide personal details to people you don't know and trust. 

Warning signs- what to watch out for

  • Too good to be true offers.
  • Ongoing excuses as to why the property cannot be viewed, such as the owner is overseas.
  • Securing the property requires an up front fee via money transfer.
  • The prospective landlord lives overseas.

How to protect yourself

  • Insist on inspecting the property- a drive-by is not enough. With these types of scams, the property may genuinely exist, but it is owned by someone else.
  • If it is overseas, ask someone you can trust to make inquiries. If there is a real estate agent or similar in the area they may be able to assist.
  • Do not rely on any information provided to you from anyone recommended by the person advertising the property.
  • An internet search on the name of the person offering the property and their email address may provide useful information.
  • Where possible, avoid paying via money transfer. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • There are many share accommodation websites, consider choosing the ones with clear warnings about scams or which offer added protection.
  • If you are satisfied that the offer is legitimate and decide to accept it, keep copies of all correspondence, banking details and the listing itself.

Report a scam

If you have been scammed, note down all the relevant information- such as, where you found the rental advertisement and who you spoke to.

Report the matter to the ACCC's Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or visit the report a scam page in SCAMwatch.

More information

Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about money transfer scams and how you can protect yourself.

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