Western Australia ScamNet is warning renters in the state to watch out for fake rental property ads placed on websites such as Gumtree.
According to the consumer watchdog, scammers have searched legitimate real estate websites in order to copy pictures and address details for their fake adverts.
“The scammers place the adverts on free listing websites and substitute an agency’s contact details with their own. Usually they have an email address with one of the free email account providers such as Google or Yahoo,” a WA ScamNet spokesman said in a statement.
He added that when the prospective tenant gets in touch, the scammer will ask for a rent or bond payment and claim the property can’t be visited as they are overseas.
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“The scammers will often share supposedly personal details about their work/home life situation and they may stress the importance of wanting a non-smoker or non-drinker.
"It is also common for the scammers to provide copies of passports and fraudulent title deeds.”
He advised tenants to meet prospective landlords in person or go through a property management agency.
“Don’t rely on photos and never wire transfer money to secure a rental because the payment method is untraceable.”
The spokesman also said that real estate agents could help to combat scammers.
“Our advice is to watermark photographs being used to advertise homes online and disable the copy and save function,” he said.
“Agents and owners may also wish to carry out periodic Internet searches for the address of their listed properties to ensure the property details are not being used fraudulently.”
If a real estate agent or owner discovers that a property has been unlawfully placed onto a classifieds website, the ad should be reported to the website host, he said.
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