More rental scams taking place

Over the years various rental scams have been created, particularly since various DIY advertising portals have been available to owners renting out their properties, and there now seems to be an increase once again in the prevalence of fake ads and landlords, warns Sunell Afrika, rentals manager at SAProperty.com.

“One that keeps coming back – which one would think has done its time and that people would be aware of and not get caught – is geared to fleece gullible tenants of sizeable deposits,” she says.

The typical scam is that a property is advertised to rent, possibly at a lower rental than the norm for the area. When a potential tenant responds to the ad, in most cases by email, the scamster replies saying there has been a huge response to the advert and that the application, with the deposit, should be submitted immediately to avoid disappointment.

“There have been some reports of application forms being emailed requesting tenants’ bank details – which would never be requested from a legitimate agent or landlord. The fraudster will often say he is out of town, but the keys can be collected from a third party as soon as the deposit is paid over.

“Usually the details and photos of the particular property have been stolen from another advert placed online. If you insist on viewing the property first, the emailer will discontinue the conversation and then block all further contact if communication was by text message,” says Afrika.

A strange scam that has now also come up, is if a tenant advertises on social media or other portals that he is looking for accommodation, a person will email or text him saying they have something suitable, providing a vague address. Again the “landlord” will be out of town but can make arrangements for the keys to be collected once a deposit has been paid.

“They say they need payment to be made to a money market account or via cardless withdrawal at an ATM. And if pressed for photos of a property, they will send through pictures they have taken from someone else’s website. As with the others, if they are pushed for a meeting, they will say the property has been taken and block all further communication.”

Another scam is short term lets are advertised, once more with information and photos stolen from an online advert. The phony advertiser will ask for a booking deposit to be paid, and when the person arrives to take occupation of his holiday let, he finds it is a fictitious property.

“The first important thing to remember, is that if any advert seems too good to be true – pricewise or location – it is usually suspect. And, second, it is vital that you view a property with the owner or rental agent before agreeing to pay any money over.

“While it is understandable that it isn’t always possible to view a short term let, as this would be holiday accommodation, rather book through reputable booking services or agents specialising in this field. Never give out bank details or agree to pay money into an untraceable account, and double check the adverts you respond to by viewing the address on Google Earth or Maps as a cross reference.

“Ultimately, it is best to deal with rental agents, as they have to registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board and will have a current fidelity fund certificate as proof that they are operating legitimately,” says Afrika.

Call Sunell Afrika on 073 002 6481 or email  sunell@saproperty.com.