Shutting the door on real estate and rental scammers

Shutting the door on real estate and rental scammers

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Buying or renting a residential property involves significant financial transactions which, increasingly, are targets for scammers.

Over the last 12 month, WA ScamNet received 129 complaints of real estate and rental scams that  left 74 West Australians almost one million dollars, in total, out of pocket.

Rental and real estate scammers try to trick you out of your money when you need to transfer payments or make deposits to banks, real estate & settlement agents or landlords.

Real estate scammers often impersonate businesses, such as a settlement agent or bank, by using an email address similar to the real one. They can redirect your payments into their fraudulent accounts by persuading you to download software that gives them access to your computer, or by obtaining a one-time bank verification code from you, enabling your payment to be ‘redirected’ – to the scammer.

Rental scammers often advertise scam properties on Gumtree or Facebook that feature appealing property photographs. They give you an address to drive by the property, but make excuses about why you can’t go inside for an inspection. They then ask you for a bond or rent payment upfront, when that advertised property might already be rented, up for sale, or not even exist.

Retrieving your money paid to fraudulent accounts is difficult, so stay alert to prevent being scammed. If you’re buying property, never provide a verification code for your bank account to someone over the phone, always call your settlement agent or bank to confirm details before transferring or paying money, and never give anyone remote access to your computer.

You can outsmart rental scammers by dealing only with landlords or licenced real estate property managers who you can meet in-person, inspecting properties before signing any agreements or paying any money, and requiring a copy of the signed lease agreement, and the property’s keys, in exchange for any money you agree to pay.

If you suspect a real estate or rental scam, let WA ScamNet know by calling 1300 30 40 54 or via the website at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au, where you can also sign up for alerts to keep informed about current scams.

If you’ve suffered financial loss from a scam, be vigilant for ‘follow up’ scams where scammers pretend to be online investigators wanting to retrieve your stolen money for a fee.