26 September 2023

Property scams as rental as anything

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Victoria Police are urging prospective renters to hold on to their cash due to scams on rental offerings costing Victorians over $125 thousand in the first four months of 2023.

Cybercrime Squad, Detective Sergeant John Cheyne said Police were investigating an increasing series of reports of rental scams where a property was falsely offered for rent using online advertisements.

Detective Sergeant Cheyne said well known property websites and online marketplaces were becoming increasingly popular for offenders to utilise and deceitfully convince victims that a property was available for rent.

He said that generally, victims were enticed with cheap rent and persuaded to act quickly by paying a deposit to secure the property.

“An opportunistic scam like this one can end up hitting everyday Victorians where it really hurts, particularly during a shortage of rental properties and a cost-of-living crisis,” D/Sgt Cheyne said.

“If something seems too good to be true and the rent seems much too low for the area, it probably is,” he said.

“You should always inspect a property in person, or if that’s not possible, send someone on your behalf.”

D/Sgt Cheyne said that since 1 January, Victoria Police had received reports of over 61 rental scams, with a total reported loss of $125,819.23 so far.

He said those aged 18-29 were the highest reported victims, with over 40 reports received from that age bracket, followed by those aged 30-39.

D/Sgt Cheyne warned that scammers may send photos and videos of a property, real addresses, copies of land titles and sometimes scans of passports to make the offer feel genuine.

“They will often ask for one month’s rent and bond upfront, before requesting the victim send through identification documents such as drivers’ licences, Medicare cards and passports,” he said.

“Once offenders have this information, they will often use the identification to commit identity fraud and scam other unsuspecting victims.”

D/Sgt Cheyne advised Victorians never to send their personal details early in the rental process, and never sign a lease agreement or make any payments before seeing the property.

“Often, matters of this nature are under reported and that can be for a range of reasons, including fear or embarrassment, and sometimes feeling unsure if an offence has occurred,” he said.

“I want to assure the community that Victoria Police is committed to investigating these matters and holding offenders to account.

“We encourage anyone who has been subject to a scam such as this to speak to police,” Detective Sergeant Cheyne said.

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