The rise of online rental property advertising has led to a surge in property scams. Criminals are fraudulently offering properties to prospective tenants and then stealing deposits. In a recent case, a scammer rented a property via popular short-term letting website Airbnb and then advertised it on Gumtree.
Fraudulent Property Listing
It wasn’t long before a fish took the bait. The victim in question contacted the fake landlord and arranged a viewing of the property. He was shown around and seemingly happy with the place, arranged for an advanced payment to be transferred to the landlord. Shortly after the money transfer went through, the landlord stopped responding to calls and text messages, so the victim went to the police.
It soon became apparent that the fake landlord did not own the property and therefore had no authorisation to let it out. The money paid as a deposit was sent to a stolen bank account and withdrawn almost immediately. An investigation was launched by the Met’s Operation Falcon department, set up to deal with online fraud and linked crime.
The tenant had managed to take a photo of the fake landlord, which the police are now circulating in the media, in the hope that somebody is able to identify the perpetrator.
Unfortunately, this type of fraud is all too common. Most scammers advertise their fake properties on websites like Gumtree, so it is always worth keeping a check online to see if your properties every pop up for rent, especially if you use Airbnb.