What are rental scams?
- Rental scams come in many forms, but the main method is to trick people into paying money for a property or accommodation that doesn’t exist, misrepresenting the actual property, or taking payments for rental properties that they don’t own or control.
- The scammers usually advertise these rental properties on Facebook Marketplace, WeChat, or illegitimate real estate websites, and when people respond to the ads and express interest, the scammers ask for a deposit or rent payment in advance, often claiming there are other interested parties.
- In this increasingly competitive rental market, scammers are taking advantage of vulnerable communities, particularly international students, and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Example of a recent rental scam targeting specific community group
- There was recently an incident involving 9 victims who reported to the Police that they had fallen victim to the same rental scam.
- The scammer used the Korean messaging service, Kakao’, to advertise a property for rent. The scammer then hired someone to conduct property inspections for the victims, however the property turned to be an AirBnb and was not available for rent.
- The scammer demanded a bond and two weeks rent for the AirBnb property that he did not own. The total amount scammed from all 9 victims was over $10,000.
Tips for international students
- Never send money or share personal details with anyone you don’t know or haven’t met
- Avoid paying for a rental property by transfer or cash as these payment methods are difficult to trace and could be lost to scammers.
- It is important to avoid paying rental bonds to individuals online. Instead, rental bonds should always be paid through a trusted third party such as NSW Fair Trading Rental Bonds Online, who will lodge and refund bond money securely.
- Do your research about the property and real estate agent
- Check if the property is listed on a legitimate real estate website or contact the landlord or property manager directly
- Never pay upfront for a property before you’ve seen it in person
- Be cautious of properties with significantly lower prices than other comparable rental properties in the area or landlords who pressure you to sign a lease quickly.
- Scammers will display impressive photos of properties and ask for a deposit before you’ve even inspected it.
- Understand your rental rights
- Use well-known platforms
- Search for a rental property using a well-known reputable website or agency and do not use or click on suspicious links
Reporting the scam
- If you suspect you have been or are being targeted by a rental scam, report it to the relevant authorities such as Scamwatch, your local police, or the website where the scam was advertised such as Facebook, Gumtree, WeChat, etc.
- The NSWPF treats all reports of Fraud as confidential and encourages all victims of crime to report to the police. The Police will do its best to investigate the matter and support the victim throughout the process.
- Victims can also contact NSW Fair Trading by calling them or making a complaint online (Fair Trading number 13 32 20)