13:16 PM, 25th September 2017, About 5 years ago 4
A fake landlord used Facebook to copy and paste property details and pictures from a rental listing on Rightmove and scammed prospective tenants from Plymouth out of £1,200.
Jenny Foster-Mitchell, who was taken in by the imposter, reported to the local paper The Herald (click here to see article) saying:
“The house was listed at £600 per calendar month including bills. It looked perfect. We got in touch at the end of August by commenting on the post.
“We didn’t get a reply straight away so we sent a direct message to the landlord on Facebook asking for more details. We got a message back giving us more details and letting us know that pets were welcome in the house, which was perfect for us.”
When Jenny asked to view the property she was told the agents had the keys, but she could go and visit the property with her partner to look at from the outside
Jenny said: “She (the imposter) said we could go and have a look at it through the windows to see if it was what we wanted. “We went and had a look at it and it was exactly the same as the photos.
“We were very keen to find somewhere new and we liked it so we were happy to go ahead with it. We were sent a tenancy agreement which we completed and sent back. Everything seemed normal.”
Jenny and her partner agreed to pay one month’s rent and one month’s deposit in advance to secure the property.
However the imposter then got greedy and asked Jenny to pay £400 for maintenance before they move in.
Jenny reported: “I was thinking, we shouldn’t have to pay for maintenance, and this was even written into the tenancy agreement we had signed, but then she threatened to add the bills to the monthly rent so we agreed.
“At this point we were getting wary, but we were so desperate to get out. We had made all of the other payments through online bank transfer, but this time she wanted us to use MoneyGram.
“We did attempt to make the £400 maintenance payment but MoneyGram wouldn’t release it, thank god, until I spoke to them to confirm the details.
“Shortly after this, we decided to search for the property and came across it on Rightmove. That is when it all unravelled.
Jenny contacted Martin & Co the listing agent who confirmed that the name of the fake landlord they had been dealing with did not match the name that they had.
“We confronted the woman (imposter) and she said that she didn’t like not being trusted and then blocked us.”
However, after giving notice on their existing property the current landlord came to the rescue.
“Thankfully our current landlord allowed us to retract our notice. They have been brilliant throughout this ordeal and have really helped us.”
Director at Martin & Co, Chris Whitaker told The Herald: “In this particular instance, we were made aware by the victim of this ‘scam’ and that some of our marketing images had been extracted from our website and used without consent on Facebook by an individual purporting to be the landlord.
“We immediately recommended that the tenant contact the police to report the incident and have also sought to identify other potential options to support the victim in finding alternative accommodation. Unfortunately this type of property scam is becoming increasingly common throughout Devon.
“Our advice to all potential tenants is to be extremely cautious when it comes to passing money to unregulated agents or landlords who are able to act anonymously and with relative impunity through various internet sites and online forums.
“Tenants should instead seek to use regulated agents who are members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents and members of a government approved Client Money Protection scheme.”
A lesson for due dilligence, but a partial good news story in the end.
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