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Rental fraud warning after shocking scam attempts

Prospective tenants are being warned about a fraud scam that cons people into paying an advance fee to rent a property.

The National Landlords Association says it’s been contacted by several individuals who have fallen victim to the scam, where fraudsters have used NLA branding and fake letters from NLA representatives to make their approaches appear authentic.

NLA chief executive Richard Lambert says: “Rental fraud is one of the uglier aspects of private renting. Tenants, no matter where they are from, should not send payment to advertisers before they are certain it is genuine and should contact their university who will have a list of reputable landlords and letting agents.

“If you receive official correspondence from a ‘landlord’ and are worried it might be a scam, often a good clue is that it will be written in poor English. Tenants should also remember they can check if a landlord is an NLA member or accredited by visiting www.landlords.org.uk/member-verification

“Any tenant that falls victim to such a scam should contact the relevant authorities in their own country and alert the police in the UK via www.actionfraud.police.uk.”

The NLA is reissuing guidance to prospective tenants about avoiding online rental fraud which was drafted in conjunction with the National Union of Students and the National Crime Agency:

1.Do not send money up front to anyone advertising online, make sure they are genuine first and view the property if you can;

2. Beware if you are asked to wire any money via a money transfer service, criminals can use details from the receipt to withdraw money from another location;

3. To use only government approved deposit schemes;

4. Contact the organisations the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status. Tenants wanting to check whether a prospective landlord is a member of the NLA or accredited should ask them for their membership number, then go to landlords.org.uk/member-verification;

5. Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK should first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to;

6. Get paperwork and proof: ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the “landlord” has a genuine legal connection with property.

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    We have once had a prospective tenant call in to pick up keys from our office. Someone had claimed to be a lettings broker and pretended to them that if these people (who were not in any position to pass referencing) sent him a month's rent in advance then we'd love to have them as tenants, they should just call in to us for the keys !!!!!

    Its a shame that sharks prey on weak targets like them. We suggested they report their experience to the police.

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