Scammers have targeted the website of prominent Perth-based real estate group Realmark, placing some of the group’s rental listings on another website in the hope of obtaining applicants’ personal identification details.
Realmark said its rental property listings were being illegally copied and uploaded onto a generic free classified advertising website.
Prospective tenants who enquired about these properties via the fraudulent listings were asked to provide details for a personal identification check after which, their identities were stolen, the company said.
Realmark managing director John Percudani said that prospective renters should take care to deal with licensed real estate agents and legitimate private landlords in their quest to secure a tenancy in Perth’s tight rental market.
Figures from SQM Research show Perth's residential vacancy rate plunged to 0.6 per cent in May.
“It’s disheartening to see criminals aim to take advantage of people looking to secure a rental property in the current market,” said Mr Percudani.
“And it highlights the need to know the credentials of the property agent or manager that you are dealing with.”
The WA Department of Commerce’s Consumer Protection unit says there has been an increase in enquiries from real estate agents seeking advice on combating such rental scams.
Consumer Protection said such scammers post copies of genuine sales or rental listings on free listing websites and substitute an agency’s contact details with their own. It’s also common for the scammers to provide suspect passports and fraudulent title deeds to add credibility to their claims, the department said.
Consumer protection recommends tenants deal with prospective landlords or licensed real estate agents in person whenever possible. They should be wary where email exchanges are carried on via free webmail accounts (such as Gmail, hotmail and yahoo) and where payments are requested upfront.