Property managers are being warned about fake property listings on classifieds websites, after one Queensland agency was targeted by a fraudster on Gumtree.
Owner of Harcourts GC Central Cassandra Stephens told Residential Property Manager her office had recently discovered that one of its rental properties was being advertised on Gumtree, unbeknownst to the owner.
The agency and landlord were alerted to the scam by a prospective tenant, who had responded to the ad and was then pressured to pay two weeks’ bond before seeing the property.
The case was reported to Gumtree and the advertisement was subsequently taken down.
Ms Stephens told Residential Property Manager that while this was the first time she had come across a rental scam on Gumtree, another of her agents had recently discovered one of her properties for sale on Locanto.
“She actually enquired into it to see what response comes back, and she received this long-winded and really detailed description about how this person owned the property but she was living overseas, working in construction,” she said.
The false landlord had said a DHL courier would need to be organised so that a deposit could be paid and the keys sent to the property.
Last month, a Queensland father fell victim to a similar scam, which cost him $1,750 in bond money.
Chad Stratmore had found a rental property on Gumtree and emailed the owners, expressing interest in it. A woman called him several hours later, telling him to view the house from the outside.
"The next day, she informed us that we had got the house and we should go ahead and complete all the forms and pay the bond on Thursday," Mr Stratmore told The Morning Bulletin. "They said they were going to put the keys in the mail or provide an address where we could pick them up."
The forms, which he said looked authentic, were completed and the bond paid. However, on the Friday, Mr Stratmore realised he had been scammed after the keys had not arrived by post and no collection address had been provided.
“It’s scary,” Ms Stephens said. “We are in the midst of trying to warn people about these possible scams."
Ms Stephens said the only solution to effectively prevent these scams was for classifieds sites to ban real estate listings, which would not be fair to people wanting to sell or rent their own property privately.
“I just think it’s going to have to become about education. All we can do is try to alert and post things on our current advertisements and properties," she said.
“We only advertise on the main real estate websites, so we might have to state that if they see the same property on another website, please be very careful.”
Gumtree offers guidelines on how users can stay safe, including ensuring all transactions took place locally and in person.
Specifically on rental, Gumtree recommends users to always view the property in person and to meet the landlord where possible.