Overseas fraudsters acting as international real estate brands have trapped two more unsuspecting tenants in rental scams over the past month, says an industry body chairman.
Certified Practising Real Estate Agent (CPREA) chairman Geoff Baldwin said in the past three weeks there have been two separate incidents where vulnerable tenants have been asked to transfer money offshore into what was represented as a real estate agency account.
“In fact, the agencies didn’t exist - fraudsters usually target an international real estate brand and then they advertise the property on Gumtree and those sites as a normal rental,” he told Residential Property Manager.
“In both cases the tenant applicants responded to online ads promoting a property in Perth advertised for rent without the actual owner’s knowledge.
“The fraudster simply chooses a property - usually an apartment in a larger complex - and then promotes it at a drastically lower rent than others in that complex so as to attract maximum enquiry,” he added.
Mr Baldwin said in both cases the respondents have been people who are doing it tough and who had found it hard to secure a rental property elsewhere - hence they are attracted by the lower rent.
“The scammers request the applicant transfer funds via a wire transfer to an overseas account and once the transfer is completed, communication ceases,” he said.
“Sadly, in one of these incidences the tenants - a single mum with a four year-old - transferred all of the money they had been saving for months to pay what they thought was the bond on a rental apartment.
“People should be very wary of requests to transfer funds overseas and should be very wary of emails that are badly worded with spelling errors etcetera,” he added.
Mr Baldwin said these overseas scammers usually promote themselves as being a reputable brand.
“It is very easy to go online to check if that office actually exists and if it does, email the office direct,” he said.
“Tenants should keep in mind that when they deal directly with an Australian real estate agent they will always have the protection and assurance of that agent being compelled to work within strictly legislated guidelines.”