Sunshine State scams

A spate of Sunshine Coast rental scams that have emerged this past week highlight the ever-constant threat of cybercrime.

Code Property Group has reported a string of cases where hackers pose as real estate agents to collect bond payments from tenants in an emotionally fragile state as they hunt a property within Queensland's incredibly tight rental market.

The scheme sees hackers pretend to be local real estate agents, weaving an intricate web of lies to gain trust and ultimately financial remuneration by deceiving potential tenants to part way with bond money for a property they will never reside in.

They are initiated by tenants being contacted via email asking if they are in a property that the scammer is "renting out”. From the initial contact, and dependent on the tenant’s reply, the hacker will investigate the areas the victim is interested in moving to, before utilising a simple Google search to bring up properties and the respective agents in these desired areas, which becomes the foundation of the scam.

As part of the scam, the tenant receives communication from a "trusted” real estate agent who even sends through fake rental contracts — with the company logo — which boosts the credibility of the scheme.

As part of developing defences against such scams, Code Property Group has provided its top tips for cyber safety and rental property applications, which are:

  1. Always check that communication coming from an agent’s email address correctly matches their name and website listing.
  2. Never transfer money into an unfamiliar bank account — real estate agencies often have a trust account that includes the agency name, not an individual person’s account.
  3. Agents often call successful applicants to congratulate them and clarify details; wait for this verbal agreement for a tenancy agreement.
  4. Contact agents directly if you are interested in a property. Most agents have their phone numbers and email displayed next to their listed property.

Scams cost Australians over $300 million in 2021, which looks likely to increase with the first quarter of 2022 resulting in Australians losing $72 million to scams, a $10 million rise from the same period last year.

Code Property Group concluded that it is paramount that applicants hunting tenancies remain vigilant when disclosing their personal information online, with victims encouraged to report their crime via scamwatch.gov.au.

Also look at reports of scams in Western Australia, you can read more here: Scammers pirating legitimate rental home ads for fraudulent listings.

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Jason Gwerder
Wednesday, 14 September 2022

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