Latest Landlord News by: Madalena Penny
It was only a matter of time until Internet fraudsters jumped on tenant-demand to relieve the public from their money. In a new spate of specific online scams, fraudsters are cloning and establishing property and letting sites offering prime property to tenants then stealing deposits.
The new scam, which targets the PRS has been coined as ‘scraping’ and is exploiting vulnerable tenants by persuading them to pay their deposits online to secure properties. In appearance, the sites seem legitimate and it is understandable that tenants can be taken in by the scammers. An example of a fraudulent site can be found at: http://www.intlett.co.uk/mau.mhtml-count-num=107544.htm
Ian Potter, Operations Manager at ARLA (The Association of Residential Letting Agents) warned the public about the scam, stating:
“Tenants must double check the validity of the websites they are using by checking websites such as ARLA and then contact the agent on the details listed there if they have any doubts at all.
“Unfortunately, criminals who are operating from abroad can misappropriate company brands and industry logos to convince consumers that they are dealing with a legitimate lettings organisation.
“Due to the apparent quality of some of these fraudulent sites, tenants should also ensure that they use web portals such as www.propertylive.co.uk where they can be sure that all the properties are advertised through regulated agents.”
Propertylive.co.uk is the only website which advertises property from more than 5,000 accredited agents across the UK. The fraudulent websites have been advertising on Gumtree and tenants are asked to exercise due diligence when securing properties online. Some of the sites are clones of reputable UK Letting Agent Sites and are identical in every way.
ARLA have suggested some tips for tenants to protect themselves from the scam:
• Get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available.
• Do not pay monies if you or a reliable contact has not visited the property with an agent or the landlord.
• Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence.
• Do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a Bank Account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent direct after the above steps have been followed.
• Victims of any fraud must also inform the Trading Standards Board as well as the police, particularly in cases where money has been lost.