Rental scam or fraud

Have you found a luxurious rental property with pool advertised on the internet at below market value? Beware, this could be a scam.

Prospective tenants are falling prey to cyber criminals advertising rooms or fake rental properties on the Internet. Many of the properties being advertised are inner-city apartments and the rent requested is below the current market value.

The overseas-based scammers often use photographs and details of real homes sourced from "For Sale" or "For Lease" internet advertisements. Typically, the scammers state that the owner is away in another country and is seeking someone who will look after the property.

They will come up with various excuses why the property cannot be viewed. The scammers then ask prospective tenants to sign a lease agreement and request a deposit, bond or rent to be sent by wire transfer. The keys will then be delivered to the prospective tenant. This scam originally targeted overseas students but with the tight rental market, Western Australians desperate for accommodation are now being caught out.

One Perth homeowner had four sets of people knock on her door requesting to inspect her apartment after it was advertised for rent on the internet. These scammers can go to extraordinary lengths to gain their victim’s trust, including emailing copies of "their" passport. Some have even requested the prospective tenant email pictures of themselves, possibly to be used to hoodwink other victims.

In some cases, the scammers have approached consumers who have posted their interest in renting a property on websites.

But often their stories are full of inconsistencies. Consider this, if you were overseas and wanting to rent out your apartment in Perth, wouldn’t you put it in the hands of a local agent or a trusted friend who could vet prospective tenants in person and do rental inspections?

How to protect yourself:
  • Be wary of too good to be true offers such as luxurious apartments being offered for bargain-basement rent;
  • Always inspect the property yourself or, if you can’t, get someone else to inspect it;
  • Be wary of paying via money wire transfer. Wire transfer is often a sign of a scam because the money is difficult to recover;
  • Make your own inquiries and don’t rely on any information provided to you from anyone recommended by the person advertising the property;
  • Use your commonsense and be alert to inconsistencies in stories. Ask questions like who would do the rental inspections and where is the bond being lodged.
  • Check out Consumer Protection’s website about renting in Western Australia.

SUPPORT: For assistance and counselling services please go to ScamNet - Help for Victims. If you need to speak to someone urgently call Lifeline on 13 11 14.