WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection reported that it
had received 40 reports of rental scams to date, with 21 victims losing a
total of $41,000.
The alarming figures are higher compared to last
year when 48 reports of similar scams left 18 victims $32,320 out of
According to the watchdog, scammers are using
social media accounts to post fake "to-let ads”, which, unfortunately,
desperate people are responding to.
But given the current state of Western Australia’s
rental market, it’s easy to understand where the despondency among potential
renters is coming from.
The latest data from the Real Estate Institute for
Western Australia (REIWA) showed that vacancy rates across the state in July
range from 1 percent to as low as zero percent, a far cry from the 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent vacancy rate that the institute deemed to be a balanced
WA ScamNet revealed that many of the victims
respond to fake social media ads and are pressured into making hasty decisions,
which often results in transferring money to secure a rental property without
carrying out proper checks.
It added that transactions carried out through
instant messages, email, or text could provide a blanket of anonymity to
scammers, allowing them to provide false information.
To lower the chance of ads for legitimate rental
homes being used for rental scams, Consumer Protection advised private
landlords, real estate agents, and property managers to take measures to protect
their intellectual property, namely their photos.
"While there is a widespread industry practice of
watermarking photos of homes for rent, this appears to be used more as a
marketing exercise than a cybersecurity measure,” Penny
Lipscombe, Consumer Protection acting executive director, said.
But she noted that watermarking might deter
scammers from using legitimate photos in a fake ad and encouraged all property
owners and managers to adopt the practice.
She also offered another solution to prevent
scammers from picture snatching. "Better still, explore the option of blocking
the photos from being downloaded from websites you use to market your
properties which would also serve as a fraud deterrent,” she said.
For prospective tenants, WA ScamNet reminded
practising caution when posting an ad, as scammers may also take advantage by
Prospective tenants are also advised to schedule a
face-to-face meeting with the owner or their agent and not accept any excuses
for them not being able to physically attend.
Meanwhile, the watchdog advised people who are on
the hunt for a rental home outside of their area to arrange for someone they
deem reliable to inspect the property on their behalf. Another way is to hire a
local licensed real estate agent or property manager to act as their
Ms. Lipscombe warned that people targeted by fake
social media accounts are vulnerable to identity theft.
"When seeking a new rental property, tenants should
be careful about who they deal with on social media — if their personal
information falls into the wrong hands, it can be used to steal their
identity,” Ms. Lipscombe said.
She explained that social media users need to be
mindful of the information that they give out during these transactions, as the
people behind fake profiles may be able to use the data provided to commit
"Suspected fake profiles should always be reported
to the social media platform, as they are likely attempting to target others
too,” she said.
Scam reports can be lodged on the ScamNet
The alarm in Western Australia raises reports of tenant scams in Queensland.
You can read more here: Sunshine
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Wednesday, 14 September 2022