Protect yourself against fraud

With vacancy rates at record lows locally and nationally, exploitative rental scammers have taken the opportunity to ramp up their illegal activities, targeting increasingly desperate would-be renters.

Reports of rental scams in WA have been on the rise for the past three years. 48 reports totalling $32,320 in losses were made in 2021, 64 reports with total losses of $63,610 in 2022, and, as of August, there have already been 41 reports totalling $86,525 in 2023, an alarming new record high.

In this blog, we look at the mechanics of rental fraud, how to spot it, and things you can do to prevent yourself from being personally targeted.

What kind of rental scams are there?

Though not a new phenomenon, the prevalence of rental scams has increased dramatically in the wake of COVID-19. The reasoning for this is twofold:

  • COVID-19 has caused rental markets to tighten substantially, thereby putting would-be renters in an increasingly desperate and vulnerable position.
  • Physical distancing requirements during the pandemic’s peak created a situation where the leasing process became more online and less face-to-face.

The scams themselves are many and varied, but they tend to follow a similar blueprint. In two recent reports of rental fraud in Perth, the prospective tenants received a fake email from what appeared to be a real estate agency informing them that their lease application had been successful. They were then instructed to provide identification documents and transfer their bond and rent in advance to the scammer’s bank account to finalise their tenancy agreement. They subsequently discovered they had been defrauded of $13,100 and $10,400 respectively, and were also now vulnerable to identity theft.

Whether via email, social media or trading posts like Gumtree, rental scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so it pays to be on the lookout for signs of potential fraudulent behaviour.

Things to watch out for

Unsolicited messages

In Perth, most rental properties are managed by property managers. It is not standard practice for property managers to advertise rental properties on platforms like Gumtree, WhatsApp or Facebook Marketplace, and it’s rarer still for them to contact you directly on these platforms. Any such contact should be treated with suspicion.

Deals too good to be true

If you come across a rental price that looks uncharacteristically cheap for a particular suburb, do some more research before submitting your application to see if it’s too good to be true. For example, REIWA’s property search tool is a good way to get an idea of average property prices for any given suburb.

Physical viewings not available

If the person you are speaking to indicates that a property viewing is not possible, whether it’s because they are interstate, their whole office has Covid, or they instead suggest a drive-by viewing, this is a likely sign that they are attempting to scam you.

Paying to fast-track your application

The success of your tenancy application should never be determined by whether or not you submit your bond and rent in advance before another applicant. In a legitimate situation, if you are the successful tenant, you’ll be notified of this by the property manager, provided a rental agreement, and then given a set period of time to deposit the relevant amounts. If this period lapses without payment, then the property manager will move onto other applicants or re-list the property.

Payment of the bond and rent-in-advance should never come before you have been notified that you are the successful tenant and should not be solicited on the basis that you may otherwise ‘miss out’.

How to protect yourself

Ensure the legitimacy of the property manager / landlord

The safest way to do this is to go through an established real estate agency and only deal with property managers or landlords that you’re able to meet face to face. A good way to test this is to request a property inspection – if this cannot be accommodated, there’s a good chance the person you’re talking to is trying to scam you.

Check whether the property listing is real

If you see a property listing on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, it’s worth checking whether the property is listed for sale on trusted websites, such as REIWA or Realestate, and also googling the address to see if it’s listed anywhere else. If you can’t find a relevant listing, or find one that’s at odds with the one you originally saw, it’s likely you’ve stumbled upon a scam.

Another way to check this is via a reverse image search – this will help you see if an image from the listing you’re viewing has also been used in a listing for a different property. If this is the case, it’s likely the image has been taken from the original listing and used to create a new fraudulent one.

Don’t rush into payments

Never send a deposit to ‘boost your chances’ of being the successful applicant. In fact, your bond and rent-in-advance shouldn’t be paid until the property manager has confirmed you’re the successful applicant and given you a copy of the lease agreement. You should also contact your property manager by phone if you receive an email requesting payment that includes different payment details – this could indicate your property manager’s email has been hacked. As well as money, be mindful who you share your personal information with – you should never need to send any identifying information directly to your prospective ‘landlord’.

Do you have a question about rental scams? At Access Property Management, we’re happy to help, simply contact us with your query.

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Shirley Smith

Founded
in1995


We are, and have always been, a family-run enterprise. Founded by Shirley Smith in 1995, the idea for Access Property Management was conceived when Shirley realised there was a high level of demand for dedicated property management agencies, a need that was not being met by the existing real estate market. The agency is now headed by Shirley’s daughter, Stacy Whiting, who joined the business in 1996, and her husband, Mark Whiting, who has been at the agency for over 18 years. This focus on longevity extends to Access’ dedicated team of qualified property managers, with most staff having worked at the agency for 9 years or more.

ORIGINAL FOCUS

Shirley’s original objective was to provide a closer link between property owners and high quality tenants provided by relocation companies and the corporate/executive sector. Over time we extended our services to better cater for the needs of all property investors and quality tenants, who were seeking a higher level of service, focus and experience.

27+ YEARS EXPERIENCE

For over 27 years, our family owned business has made an impact within the real estate industry in Perth Metro and based on our results we’ve established a strong reputation for integrity, distinction and innovation in real estate and management services.

Meet our team of dedicated property specialists.

“Many thanks for your help.  I have a couple of other properties and you guys are by far the easiest to work with and most professional.”

Dean – Owner

“Mark, Stacy and the team at Access you are a pleasure to do business with. I highly recommend to anyone that requires high level, professional property management.”

Brett – Facebook

“I have rented through Access twice since 2010 and both times have been great, particularly the last time when I rented in South Perth and my rental agent was Kelly Duncan. What a delight she was and is and nothing was too much trouble. Thanks Kelly for such a great experience. Shame I couldn’t stay with you.”

Vanda – South Perth – Facebook

“It is always fantastic to deal with Stacy and the team at Access Property Management. Highly recommend to anyone!”

Anike – Facebook

I would like to personally thank Kelly for her professionalism and pleasant manner when we were applying for a rental. My son Jarrod (18yrs) & daughter Nicole (22yrs) had been applying for rentals all of January with no success & I was disappointed that some of the agencies hadn’t even followed up on their good references to allow for a fair assessment of their application. As Kelly would know we were successful in this application but had to decline as we were also successful in purchasing a property in that same week. Kelly was very understanding and a pleasure to deal with. I will highly recommend your agency .

Heather – Prospective Tenant

“I rented a property through Natalie at APM. She was attentive, proactive and professional – everything you could want in a property manager (as a tenant and as a home owner, as I am myself also). I highly recommend APM, their professional staff and convenient services.”

Daniel – Mt Pleasant – Facebook

“I have been using their services as a tenant, and I can say its an amazing experience. They are prompt at everything and quite helpful. Alongside, the property manager carry a great professional work ethics which is wonderful. You, as a tenant always feel accompanied by your property manager. Cheers.”

Rahul – Google