An industry body has asked classified listings online service Gumtree to issue its users clear warnings about possible scams involving fake lettings.
The Residential Landlords’ Association has issued the warning after fraudsters posing as landlords posted ads on Gumtree and other websites asking for cash in exchange for viewings.
The online advertisements often show a very attractive and affordable flat.
But when prospective tenants call to arrange a viewing they are typically told that the landlord lives far way, sometimes abroad and that they must provide a deposit to secure a viewing – a figure usually in the region of £1,500.
The fraudsters behind these scams have cloned logos of websites including the RLA’s DepositGuard scheme so if prospective tenants make cursory checks the schemes look genuine.
However once the cash has been paid they never hear from the scammers again.
This kind of problem is not new - Letting Agent Today editor Graham Norwood wrote about this in The Observer back in 2009.
But now the RLA has taken this further, and has spoken to Gumtree demanding visible warnings on the website to stop more renters becoming victims.
“Often the victims in this type of fraud are young foreign students, who have limited knowledge of how the rental market works in the UK. The fact that our DepositGuard logo is being used in this manner is something we are taking extremely seriously and we have approached Gumtree asking for clear warnings about scams of this type to be included on its website” says an association spokesman.
The RLA is urging victims of this kind of scam to contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.