26 September 2023

Rental warning as scammers on the line

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Consumer Protection has warned potential tenants of rental properties to be very cautious communicating and transacting arrangements online.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe issued the warning after two people searching for a rental lost a total of $23,500 after scammers hacked into a Perth western suburbs’ real estate agency’s email account.

Mr Newcombe said the prospective tenants received a fake email purporting to be from the agency saying they had been successful in their rental applications and giving instructions to forward the bond and rent in advance payments to a bank account controlled by the scammers.

“In one case, an international arrival to Perth who was staying at a hotel awaiting confirmation of the rental property, made several payments to the scammer amounting to $13,100 and the scam email replies blamed a COVID-19 outbreak in the office for not being able to deliver the keys to his hotel,” Mr Newcombe said.

“After the initial payment was made, the scammer came back with another demand for more rent in advance.”

He said that in the second case a woman who was re-locating from a regional area to Perth paid $10,400 following an email exchange with the scammer who was masquerading as the property manager.

“She had also sent personal and financial information as well as identification documents.”

Mr Newcombe said scammers always preyed on people in vulnerable situations, such as those desperately searching for rental properties in the current tight market.

“The victims are of course devastated when they learn they don’t have the property and have lost the money they have sent,” he said.

“In one case, the victim is facing further expenses for hotel accommodation until he finds another property.

“In past examples of rental scams, the victims are sometimes left homeless and unable to pay for another property.”

Mr Newcombe said prospective tenants needed to be aware of this scam activity and he recommended they make phone contact with the property manager to confirm the outcome of their application and double check the bank account details provided for the payment.

“It’s worth noting that it is illegal for a landlord or their agent to charge more than four weeks’ rent for bond and more than two weeks’ rent in advance, plus a maximum of $260 for a pet bond where relevant,” he said.

More information about scams is available on the WA ScamNet website where online scam reports can be lodged.

The website can be accessed at this PS News link.

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