Alistair Walsh Property Observer 04 October 2012
“We do know that in some online fraud/scamming cases, the account holders can often be victims themselves.”
Suncorp Bank has declined to confirm if police had been notified about a bank account possibly used in a Surry Hills rental scam that Property Observer reported on last Friday.
The bank account the scammer wanted victims to deposit money into was held with Suncorp Bank under an account number that Property Observer supplied to Suncorp.
A Suncorp spokesperson said he could not comment on individual cases and could not confirm whether the police had been involved in this instance.
“We do know that in some online fraud/scamming cases, the account holders can often be victims themselves,” the spokesperson says.
Property Observer notes it is entirely possibly the account number is fake and part of the elaborate scam.
A prospective Sydney renter stumbled onto the online scam on the classified ad site Gumtree and emailed the poster about the property.
She luckily recognised the hallmarks of a scam as soon as the scammers emailed her back.
The renter, Kieryn, then baited the scammer to draw as much information out as possible and glean how the scam worked.
The original ad was deleted not long after when it was reported by the genuine listing agent of the property.
According to the ACC’s Scamwatch website, this sort of rental scam is a common trick.
“Scamwatch is warning prospective tenants to be wary when responding to rental properties advertised on the net where the 'owner' makes various excuses as to why you can't inspect the property but insists on an upfront payment for rent or deposit,” Scamwatch advises.
“Scammers will often use various shared accommodation sites to post these fake listings. They will go to great lengths to ensure that the offer looks genuine by including photos and real addresses of properties. However, photos and details of properties can be easily obtained on the internet.
“Once hooked, the scammer will request money, often via money transfer, or personal details upfront to 'secure' the rental property. Scamwatch warns consumers not to send money or provide personal details to people you don't know and trust.”
In the Surry Hills case, the scammers said they were in London and just needed someone to fill the vacancy. They were unable to allow Kieryn an inspection of the property and demanded an up-front payment to secure it.
Kieryn promised to pay on the agreement they meet a variety of conditions that no normal tenant would require. Where normal landlords would run, the scammers kept pushing Kieryn to pay money into their Suncorp account.
They scammers had taken details of a real rental listing from an online rental portal.
The agent who had listed the property was aware of the scam and had alerted Gumtree to remove the ad.
The scammers had listed the same property at a quarter of the price the real agent was asking.
Scamwatch says to watch for offers that are too good to be true, owners giving ongoing excuses as to why the property cannot be viewed, securing the property requiring an up-front fee via money transfer and prospective landlords living overseas.
The scam has been increasingly prominent overseas, with US scammers even changing the locks of listed houses to give fake inspections and then pocketing the deposits.