Scammers have targeted prospective tenants in Perth, with two unsuspecting victims losing $23,500.
In one case, a woman relocating from a regional area to Perth paid $10,400 following an email exchange with a scammer masquerading as the property manager.
The scammer allegedly gained access to a western suburbs property manager’s email account and the women also sent personal and financial information and identification documents to them.
In a second case, an international arrival to Perth, who was staying at a hotel awaiting confirmation of the rental property, made several payments to a scammer amounting to $13,100 who blamed a COVID-19 outbreak in the office for not being able to deliver the keys to his hotel.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said the alarming cases should act as a warning to potential tenants to be cautious when communicating and transacting online.
“Scammers always prey on people in vulnerable situations, such as those desperately searching for rental properties in the current tight market,” Mr Newcombe said.
“The victims are of course devastated when they learn they don’t have the property and have lost the money they have sent. In one case, the victim is facing further expenses for hotel accommodation until he finds another property.
“In past examples of rental scams, the victims are sometimes left homeless and unable to pay for another property.”
Mr Newcombe said renters needed to be cautious before sending money or important documents online.
“Prospective tenants need to be aware of this scam activity and we would recommend they make phone contact with the property manager to confirm the outcome of their application and double check the bank account details provided for the payment,” he said.
“Sending personal and financial information as well as identification documents to scammers will also increase the risk of identity theft, so people need to be extra cautious and verify the recipient is genuine before sending money, information or documents.
“It’s worth noting that it is illegal for a landlord or their agent to charge more than four weeks rent for bond and more than two weeks rent in advance, plus a maximum of $260 for a pet bond where relevant.”