Rental accommodation scams

When looking for a property to rent, either as your home or when you go on holiday, the last thing you want is to become a victim of a scam and lose your money. We have tips for you to make your renting experience as safe as possible and avoid being scammed.

Rental scams

  • The scammer copies listings of genuine house and apartment rentals and advertises them with a different email address and phone number. They will usually claim they’re out of the country or make some other excuse as to why they can’t show you the home. They may send you photos and even a set of fake keys in exchange for rental payment. This delays you finding out that you have been scammed.
  • Another scam to watch out for is when the scammer actually does rent a home. They then advertise it as being available for rent and shows potential tenants around the house while they live there. They then collect the deposit along with the first month’s rent and disappear with your money.
  • A rental may seem to go fine right up until the point where you move in. After viewing a property and paying a deposit, when you turn up at the property to move in you may find the keys don’t work. The scammer who showed you the property is nowhere to be found and is not contactable.
  • You have been communicating with the scammer by email and they ask you to pay the deposit directly into a bank account. Then they ask you to forward the transaction receipt along with a form of personal ID. Your money is then stolen and your ID is used for fraudulent activity.

Holiday rental scams

  • A scammer targets those who are booking holiday rental properties abroad. The scammer copies photos and information from a genuine listing on a property website and creates a false listing on another site. Once someone gets in contact with regard to a potential holiday rental, the scammer tells them the property is in high demand, and the best way to secure it is to transfer a deposit immediately. After the money has been transferred the person then finds they are no longer able to contact the landlord.
  • When renting from a genuine holiday website always make sure you pay through that site. If the contact for the rental property asks you to email them directly or encourages you to leave the site promising a better deal, don’t do it.

How to avoid being scammed

  • Be wary if the rent seems too good to be true, for example, if the rent is unusually low for a good location
  • Use Google maps to verify the existence and address of the property
  • Beware of incorrect contact details and phone numbers, for example bouncing email addresses, missing numbers, or the phone ringing out
  • Keep copies of all correspondence, banking details and the listing itself
  • Make sure you have seen the property before paying the deposit and are happy with its condition
  • Don’t pay the deposit to the person leaving the property as it is this person you will have to track down if you have difficulty getting back the deposit when you leave.
  • Paying by cheque or bankers draft ensures that your money is traceable. Always get a receipt for your payments and keep them safe.
  • Get the landlord to meet you at the property and pay them the deposit when you are face-to-face. Don’t make any payments until you have been given the keys and signed the rental contract. Always check that the keys fit in the lock when you get them.
  • For holiday rentals, book through an agent or reputable website if you are not entirely comfortable about booking from an owner directly. Most holiday destinations have several short-stay letting agents that you can deal with. As you can’t check out the property before you book, pay the least amount possible if you are requested to make a payment upfront and offer to pay the balance on arrival.
  • When renting from a genuine holiday website always make sure you pay through that site. If the contact for the rental property asks you to email them directly or encourages you to leave the site promising a better deal, say no.
  • Remember, don’t transfer money unless you are absolutely sure that the listing is genuine.
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