A police force is warning potential tenants to check before handing over money after scammers conned people into making rent pre-payments for properties which do not exist.
Individuals have been scammed after seeing North Yorkshire rental properties advertised on Facebook and making contact with private landlords who posted the listings.
The potential tenants have then paid hundreds of pounds in advance rent without viewing the property on the promise of receiving keys in the post - but they eventually realise the ‘landlord’ has cut all contact and the keys never arrive.
These scammers have used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for the tenant being unable to view the property in person and have instead sent photos upon which the tenant has then made their decision to rent the home.
“This is a tactic we saw used a few years ago but then it seems to have had a resurgence with scammers finding yet another way to take advantage of the current situation with Covid-19” explains North Yorkshire Police financial investigator Kevin Ross.
“Not only has it already resulted in victims losing hundreds of pounds but it’s also meant that in some cases they have been left with nowhere to live, having given notice to move out of their current properties."
He continues: “My advice to anyone dealing with a private landlord is never to pay any money until you’ve made the following checks:
- Make sure the property is real by visiting it and inspecting it both inside and out;
- Ensure the person who claims to be the landlord is the legal owner of the property and able to rent it to you. Ask to see the landlord’s Land Registry papers to prove ownership or for £3 you can search property ownership information on the Land Registry website;
- Ask for photo ID from the landlord to check they are the person they claim to be;
- Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence;
- If the landlord asks you to transfer money to a bank account that is not in their name, this is very likely to be a scam and you should not make any payments.
“If you have been the victim of rental fraud, call 101 to report this to the police.”