Renters are being warned to watch out for fraudsters posing as landlords and asking for up-front deposits.
Action Fraud said reported losses from this type of scam between December 2018 and February 2019 have amounted to £19,990, with 28 reports being made.
Criminals claiming to be landlords of properties seen online are asking victims to pay money as a deposit – plus in some cases a month’s rent – before the renter has viewed the property.
They claim it will be put into the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).
After the victim pays the money, the fraudster sends a bogus email claiming to be from the TDS and confirming they have received their deposit.
⚠️ALERT: Watch out for fraudsters claiming to be landlords of rental properties available online! 🏠🔑 Between Dec 2018 and Feb 2019 alone, we've received 28 reports – amounting to a total loss of £19,990! https://t.co/yDUiUPzjvvpic.twitter.com/vEFexJQKp2
— Action Fraud (@actionfrauduk) February 21, 2019
Victims who think they have secured a property later discover that the money has been sent directly to the fraudster and that they have been left out of pocket and with no home to move into.
Action Fraud director Pauline Smith said: “Devious fraudsters are targeting a whole host of victims, from university students to professionals, for their own selfish gain.”
TDS chief executive Steve Harriott said: “If anyone has any queries or isn’t sure about whether or not the process they’re being asked to follow is correct, they can contact TDS who will be more than happy to guide them.”
Here are Action Fraud’s tips for renters:
1. Always make sure you, or a reliable contact, has viewed the property with an agent or landlord before agreeing to rent a property.
2. Do not be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Only transfer funds when you are satisfied a genuine property, safety certificates and valid contract are in place.
3. Only pay for goods or service by bank transfer if you know and trust the person. If you become a victim of fraud you risk losing your money.
4. Once you have paid your deposit, you can check whether it’s protected by entering your tenancy deposit certificate code on TDS website.
5. If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud.