If you’ve seen a property advertised for rent on the likes of Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, and you think the price looks too good to be true – it probably is.
Fraudsters are using Facebook and Gumtree to conduct renter scams
Fraudsters are taking advantage of classified online listing services, posing as landlords and advertising properties for rent.
The scammers tend to attract unsuspecting prospective tenants by drawing them in with professional style photographs, rent inclusive of all utilities, flexible entry dates and a price cheaper than the competition but not enough to cause suspicion.
Their main aim is to obtain from the potential tenant a deposit, and perhaps the first month’s rent, in order to secure the property. In many instances, once the funds are transferred, the tenant never hears from the fraudster again.
Tay Letting were recently made aware of an attempted scam when one of our properties advertised for rent appeared shortly afterwards as an ad on Gumtree. We were alerted by a viewer, who had seen both adverts and recognised this as suspicious. In this case, we were able to report the scam to Gumtree and have the listing removed.
This is just one type of fraud, however, where the property details have been copied from a legitimate website. Prospective tenants should also be alert to instances where a fraudster has rented a property themselves, often a short term let, and lists the property for rent online pretending to be the landlord. This would allow them to undertake viewings, and provide a false sense of credibility.
Whilst Gumtree provide a health warning on their website, advising prospective tenants to check the paperwork, ask to see the landlords ID and proof of ownership, and not to send a deposit until the tenancy agreement is in place, there are limits to what online listing platforms can do to prevent fraud.
How to Spot a Rental Scam
Here are some things to look out for if you think you might be viewing a rental scam.
- The rent is lower than the rent of similar properties in the area
- You are pressured to pay a deposit and/or rent upfront immediately to secure the property
- Viewings cannot be arranged until a deposit is transferred
- Correspondence is in broken English
How to Check the Landlord is Legitimate
Any landlord in Scotland must be a registered landlord. The Scottish Landlord Register is publicly available and can be searched here. The landlord should be able to provide their registration number, together with their ID to prove they both own the property and are authorised to rent it.
Why Use a Letting Agent to Rent
The letting agent industry in Scotland is strictly regulated. As with landlords, all letting agents must be registered. A letting agent has a Registration Number (known as a LARN) which can be searched online here.
Letting agents are also subject to a Code of Practice, which holds agents to a high standard and reflects good industry practice.
Using a letting agent is the safest way to rent a property. Agents are familiar with the rules and regulations within the private rented sector.
An agent will ensure that the landlord is registered and has the authority to rent the property. The agent will also prepare the tenancy agreement, and collect the deposit, securing this within one of the government-regulated deposit schemes so that you know that your money is in safe hands.
An agent also uses a secure and dedicated client account for the collection of rent, and will never ask you to send money to an account that is not in the name of the company.
It’s important to be vigilant when renting a property, and make sure you know who your landlord is! To remove uncertainty, always rent through a recognised letting agent. To find out more or report anything suspicious, you can always get in touch.
If you have been a victim of this kind of fraud, we would advise you to call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.