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Online Rental Scams Suck $300k From Aussie Wallets

The ACCC is warning Australians to watch out for online rental and accommodation scams, with more than $300,000 lost this year.

The figure represents a 76 per cent jump in money lost to rental scams over last year, with a total of 560 scams – an increase of 56 per cent – being reported to Scamwatch.

Scammers are listing fake properties online with reduced rent due to COVID-19, then coercing victims into making upfront payments to “secure the property” and/or sending bogus “tenant application forms” to phish for personal information to be used in identity theft.

According to ACCC Deputy Commissioner Delia Rickard, some scammers are even impersonating real estate agents and organising fake inspections.

“The loss of personal information through rental scams is becoming more common, with scammers requesting copies of identity documents such as passports, bank statements or payslips. Once a scammer has your personal information you are at risk of being targeted by further scams or identity theft.

“Many people are also experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic and the financial impact of falling victim to a scam can be devastating,” said Rickard.

The ACCC stresses that renters should try to view a property in person before paying any bond or rent money to landlords or real estate agents; where this is not possible, they should at least search to confirm that the property is real and the agent licensed.

“Scammers often rely on email communications to avoid identification, do an independent search for a phone number and speak to the property manager over the phone or arrange a meeting in person.

“Before making any payments ensure you are dealing with the licensed agent – if a scammer has your details they may impersonate a real estate agent and attempt to ‘follow-up’ requesting money after an inspection,” said Rickard.

The highest number of scams were reported in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT, by people aged 25-34.

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