Police are warning about fraudsters who are ripping off landlords and tenants by posing as bogus letting agents.
Scotland Yard detectives are looking for those behind two scams.
In the first, tenants pay over a deposit and first month’s rent on buy to let homes that are already let.
Two would-be tenants lost £1,500 each to a fraudster posing as a landlord in the most recent incident. The conman viewed a flat in Sutton with them, signed a tenancy agreement and handed over a set of keys so they could move in.
When they arrived with their belongings, they found the keys did not fit the locks and the real landlord had already let the property.
Det Insp Sarah Rees said: “This is a cruel scam which targets people who are looking to set up home and can least afford to lose the money. On this occasion the victims arrived to move in at the same time but were left helpless on the doorstep.”
Both victims had responded to an advert on the website Gumtree. The advert was booked in false names and with false bank details.
The Metropolitan Police has also told landlords to watch out for identity theft at properties managed by letting agents.
Fraudsters are emailing letting agents who also sell homes posing as property owners and ask them to arrange a mortgage or find a buyer.
“This is a complex fraud which suggests the fraudsters have a very good understanding of estate agency,” said a Met spokesman.
“They understand how the agent, solicitor and mortgage adviser and lender interact with each other, and the weaknesses in their processes.”