ID checking website 192.com is urging awareness of rental fraud as a study finds landlords to be highly trusted when handing over money to them.
Rental fraud happens when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property. In reality, the property does not exist or has been rented to multiple victims at once.
According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau there has already been 353 separate cases of rental fraud in the UK this year. A spokesman from the bureau says:
”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.
“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.”
192.com polled 1,500 UK residents asking them who they trusted most when making a transaction. 19% mostly trusted a landlord when making a payment to them. The 18-24 year olds in the survey were the most trustworthy group, with one in 5 mostly trusting a landlord when handing over cash.
Rental Fraud Warning from 192.com
To avoid rental fraud 192.com has the following advice:
- Use land registry and edited electoral roll listings to check the property exists, and see who lives there.
- Verify the owner. Title deeds can be bought online from the Land Registry for £4.
- Find out if somebody is already living at the property. Residential listings on 192.com will detail co-habitees, both past and present.
- Get a bird’s eye view: do the images of the property match those on the advert? Bing maps and aerial photography can help you find out.
- Check the individual the selling you the accommodation. Is the person who they say they are? Access 300 million UK edited electoral roll records on 192.com to match a name with an address.
To further protect you from rental fraud, Action Fraud has the following advice:
- Do not send money to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine.
- If you need to secure accommodation in the UK from overseas, seek the help of the employer or university you are coming to, or get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available.
- Do not pay any money until you or a reliable contact has visited the property with an agent or the landlord.
- Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence.
- Do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a bank account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly after the above steps have been followed. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer any money via a money transfer service like Western Union.
Dominic Blackburn, product director of 192.com says: “We urge consumers to approach the rental market with caution. Follow your better instincts and take control of your ID check.”
1: 192.com Survey Conducted by One Poll, nationally representative online poll of 1,500 between July 23 and July 28 2010. Results were broken down by age and region.
Action Fraud: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/