Foreign criminals have been creating copies of UK lettings’ sites – a process known as ‘scraping’ – to persuade would-be tenants to pay them money.
The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has noticed an increase in scraping in the last six months.
The websites look professional, seem legitimate and often use industry logos to convince potential tenants that they are above-board.
Check it’s legitimate before paying money
Those looking for rental properties are being urged to confirm the validity of the websites they’re using on checking websites such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). Contact the agents directly via contact details published on trusted sites such as these to confirm it’s a legitimate agent.
House-hunters should also exercise caution on portal websites such as Property Live and Gumtree, to make sure the adverts are from legitimate agents. ARLA members have seen a number of tenants defrauded in this way, after tenants paid money for the deposit of rental property to the fraudsters running the adverts. People abroad looking for rental properties are often targeted for this crime.
Tips to avoid rental property scams:
- if you’re not in the country, get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available
- do not pay any money until you or a reliable contact has visited the property with an agent or the landlord
- ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence
- do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a bank account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly after the above steps have been followed. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer any money via a money transfer service like Western Union
- anyone who has been a victim of a fraud like this should report it to Action Fraud.
Read more about scraping on ARLA’s website.
Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.
To report a fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.