May 10, 2016
Property gossip August 2016

When it comes to large sums of money there will always be those looking to exploit the vulnerable.

As a licensed member of ARLA (Association of Residential Landlords Association) we receive notification when a scam comes to light and felt this one was definitely worth sharing with our readers. In addition we have information about a different scam, one which has recently struck right here in Leytonstone.

So what does a scam look like to tenants?

They will first try to gain the victims trust, often citing that they themselves have been let down before, to try and get the victim to empathise with them, before requesting funds to be transferred:

Email from fake landlord (upon receiving a response to their “fake” property advert)

“I inherited the apartment from my grandfather when he passed away, I am from Munich, Germany, so I decided to rent it out.

“This is the second time I have tried to rent the apartment, I had a deal with somebody before who said he will rent it if I come to England…So I got a plane ticket, and guess what!? When I arrived he didn’t show up and after 2 days he gave me a call and said he is sorry but he can’t rent it anymore, because he has no money.

“It was unfortunate that my past bitter experience of inviting people to come and view my apartment, without any form of confirmation of their financial ability, has brought about great loss to me.

“So don’t get me wrong and don’t take it personally, but now I don’t want to buy another plane ticket and fall for it once more… maybe you won’t show up. I’m sick of tire-kickers, people who are just looking around and not serious about renting, so please don’t waste my time… No offence!

“I am the only person who has the keys, but I have a good solution if you are still interested. You can have the keys in your hands in less than 48 hours. I found a way to complete this rental safe and fast for both of us.”

Subsequent email from fake landlord

After striking up a dialogue with their victim, their subsequent email would take things further, requested funds be transferred.

“You must secure the flat before and the lease will start from the day that you will move in. The keys and all documents will be sent to a Letting Agency in London”.

“This is how we can make it happen”

“Agency X will be our mediator. This agency will offer you an inspection of the flat, and handle the payments and documents.

“You will need to make a payment to this agency (one month’s rent + a one month’s deposit). Once your deposit has been received by (Agency X), they will send an agent with the keys/contract.

“I will explain to you step by step how this will work:

1 – To start this transaction I will need to know your full name, address and phone number to proceed with this deal.

2 – I am sending the legal papers and the Keys to (Agency X).

3 – (Agency X) will send you a delivery notification including tracking number and temporary contract, to let you know they have the keys their custody.

4 – At this point you will have to go and make a deposit on the (Agency X) bank account.

5 – The agent will verify the payment information and if everything is OK they will reserve the property for you.

“The agent will get in touch with you and will come directly to the apartment and physically show you my flat and explain everything you need to know”.

“Note: If you do not accept the flat the agency will give you all of your money back.

If you have any questions just let me know.”

Many of you reading this will wonder how anyone can fall for such a scam, but it’s a real scam and there are many victims.

The losers in this instance are of course the tenants, but what about other scams in which both the landlord and the tenant fall victim? We know of one such scam operating locally targeting empty properties.

The locks are drilled out and new locks fitted. An advert is placed on on-line with a low rental figure so as to create multiple enquiries in a very short space of time. A prospective “tenant” wishing to take the property is told to pay rent and deposit, in cash, and a tenancy agreement is produced. The next morning, keys are issued and the “tenant” moves in.

It isn’t long before the owner discovers someone living in their property. The so called “tenant” is understandably suspicious about the person claiming to be (and who is) the owner – after all, they have a signed tenancy agreement and the person claiming to be the property owner doesn’t even possess a key that fits the front door! Eventually both parties realise they have been scammed and the nightmare begins.

The scammers will often choose a housing benefit tenant with children, making it a much more complex situation to remedy (and with housing so hard to find for those on benefits, they are most certainly very vulnerable and often desperate to move into somewhere).

But it doesn’t stop there – The scam artists will have also carried out numerous other viewings and taken money from various other people, all of whom are expecting to move into the property. It isn’t long before other victims start knocking on the door wondering why the “landlord” isn’t present with the tenancy agreement and a set of keys, as agreed.

As you can see, this kind of scam can happen to anyone – even a homeowner whilst they are away on holiday – it doesn’t bear thinking about does it!

David Cox, ARLA MD said: “Gumtree has been a source of landlord scams for years and unsuspecting tenants have paid over huge sums of money to fraudsters; never to get any of it back”.

If you know of anyone who has been scammed, please contact Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre:

HTTP://WWW.ACTIONFRAUD.POLICE.UK/

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