4th September 2013
Sudents seeking accommodation have been urged to be careful after it has emerged that one in ten people have been scammed by a landlord or lodger.
The statistics are published in a new study carried out by 192.com, the people and business fnder website.
Rental fraud – much of which uses the internet to attract would-be victims – has increased by a startling 92% in the last two years (source: Office of National Statistics). This kind of fraud generally takes place when when would-be tenants are tricked into paying advance fees to rent a property. It can also happen when a scammer posing as a prospective tenant offers to send a cheque as a deposit, asks for the cheque to be cashed and some of the money sent to another person by money transfer service … only for the landlord to discover that the cheque was fake.
According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), there have already been 353 separate cases of rental fraud in the UK this year. A spokesperson from the bureau said: "Rental fraud is a re-occurring threat, with students, holidaymakers and attendees of major events being targeted in different ways but with the same overall objective; to steal from people who have booked a property in good faith." He continued: "The criminals operate anonymously, advertising on the internet to lure in people in with victims losing thousands of pounds and being left in difficult and distressing positions. The NFIB urges anyone renting a property on the internet to carry out extensive checks and if they have any doubt to not take the risk."
Fraudulent landlords are making are making £755 million a year from the scam, and the average cost to the individual victim is £2,394.
The National Landlords Association offers the following advice:
– Tenants should always visit the property with the landlord or letting agent before handing over a deposit.
– Where possible, tenants should pay a deposit using a credit card or via a direct debit to gain some protection from the banks – never hand over cash.
– Tenants should look for professional landlords who are members of a professional body such as the NLA.
– If using a letting agent, tenants should look for tenants who are members of a trade body such as The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
– UKALA members are required to have Client Money Protection in place which means that all monies given to the agent are insured.
– If the tenant is not sure about a letting agent, they should call trading standards before entering into any contracts.
192.com has recently launched Background Reports, a service offering protection against deception and fraud.