Expats heading for UK warned over rental property scam

Published:  2 Jan at 6 PM
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Expats planning their arrival in the UK by renting a property in advance are being warned about a new scam involving fake landlords.

The fraudulent scheme is being operated through the classified ads website Gumtree, and is aimed at foreigners planning to come to the UK on a semi-permanent or permanent basis. Advertisements offering rental properties are being placed on the site along with the email contact details of landlords. Following an exchange of emails, the fake landlord will request a deposit be sent to a designated bank account. Once the money has been received by the scammer, all contact is withdrawn and the landlord disappears with the payment.

The scam, first detected by the UK’s National Landlords Association, came to light when the association received angry phone calls from defrauded would-be tenants. The crooks had been using the association’s logo in order to make the scam less detectable, as well as creating fake stationery resembling that used by the NLA’s Tenant Check service. According to Richard Price, NLA’s director of operations, prospective tenants should never send payments to advertisers unless they can verify without doubt that they’re genuine.

Price suggests students and those arriving to take up jobs should request assistance from their university or employer, both of whom can give advice on UK standard practices and even help find suitable accommodation through vetted lists of available properties. Sadly, although the internet age has made much in our lives a simple matter of going online, it’s also a breeding ground for scammers of all shapes and sizes.

Another scam ongoing at present begins when the fraudster rents a property and then shows prospective tenants around. If the ‘mark’ accepts the tenancy, the first month’s rent, fees and security deposits is paid to the scammer, who then disappears. It’s usual for the scammer to have paid the real landlord by cheque, which then bounces leaving both the prospective tenant and the landlord out of pocket. Other scams include crooks breaking into a house whilst the owners are out of town, showing prospective tenants around, collecting the rent and other payments and disappearing, leaving the tenant to discover he’s been scammed.
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