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Online Scammers A Real Threat For Renters

First National Real Estate Pope Nitschke says the web was a great place to find rental properties or student accommodation, but warns renters to watch out for online scammers.

“Prospective tenants keen to find accommodation in the current tight rental market are increasingly being targeted by dishonest people seeking to take advantage of their circumstances,” First National Real Estate Pope Nitschke, Principal, Darren Pope said.

“Rents are escalating, vacancy rates are low and many people who rent often are forced to do so, either because they are still studying or are simply unable to afford to purchase a property outright.

“This makes it especially disconcerting that they would fall prey to greedy scammers who want to feed off others like parasites.”

There are a number of common scams in the market according to Darren Pope, but they can easily be avoided.

“Scammers pose as landlords using community websites and say you can't meet with them to view the property for various reasons. Often they say they are overseas, then demand a payment to secure the keys to inspect a rental property that is always underpriced and seems too good to be true, which usually means it is,” Mr Pope said.

“They ask that the money be sent via money transfer, even though you have yet to set eyes on the property in person, let alone view or inspect it.

“Once the money is sent out of Australia by wire transfer, it's gone and so is the property and the scammer.”

Mr Pope said there were some simple rules to follow to avoid being taken advantage of, the first one being to use the services of a reputable third party such as a real estate agency.

“Going through an agency means you are dealing directly with the landlord's official representative. If you can't rent from a real estate agency and must deal with the landlord online, make sure you do not pay any money to gain access to the property for an inspection, and, make certain the landlord intends to comply with your state's rental legislation. If you're unsure about anything, contact and agent or the Real Estate Institute of your state.”

According to Darren Pope, the other simple ways to avoid a rental scam are to:-
  •     Never wire money
  •     Always meet the landlord or property manager in person before signing any rental documents
  •     Even if you are overseas, contact a reputable third party, such as a friend or an agent if you don't know of anyone in the area, and ask them to view the property on your behalf
  •     Never give out bank account information or personal details, especially over the phone or online
  •     Do a web search of the landlord's name to see if there is any other available information on the person.

Mr Pope advised potential renters to watch out for properties where:
  •     the rental amount is unusually low, compared to similar properties in the same area
  •     the landlord is unable to show you the property
  •     they request payment via wiring, cashier's check, money order, escrow service, Western Union or MoneyGram,
  •     rental applications or reference checks are not requested, and
  •     email is from a free email provider such as yahoo, gmail, Hotmail, etc.

“Another dead giveaway is a lot of spelling mistakes in their email communications, the grammar is not good, or, there is an excessive use of capitalisation,” Mr Pope said.