Economy

No vacancy: Eagle-eyed tenant spots online rental scam

Alistair Walsh /

If an online ad is offering a rental property at a quarter of what it would normally rent for and renters aren’t allowed to inspect, then it’s probably a scam.

One prospective Sydney renter stumbled onto an online scam on the classified ad site Gumtree.

She luckily had the guile to recognise the hallmarks of a scam as soon as the scammers emailed her back.

The renter, Kieryn, then proceeded to bait the scammer to draw as much information out as possible and glean how the scam worked.

The original ad was deleted not long after.

The ad offered a Surry Hills terrace at an enticing rental price.

Kieryn contacted the so-called owners, keen for the bargain, and was told the owners were overseas and just needed someone to move in as soon as possible.

Just pay the deposit and the Nobbs Street property is yours, the scammer told Kieryn.

“Kindly note that you advised to go and view the place from around the property as this is the only form of inspection at the moment due to our absence and the keys being with us here,” the scammers wrote.

“Two weeks rental deposit of $960 or a month rent of $1,920 is required to secure the place along with a refundable bond deposit of $1,920, which is also required as fee for damages according to the rental law and all payment will be made into our Australian bank account.”

The so-called landlord said they were overseas for three years in “the U.K to resume our new assignment, which is about the HIV/AIDS reaffirm program” and they want a renter to ensure the house is “kept alive in my absence”.

This is when Kieryn knew it was a scam. They were overseas, she couldn’t inspect the property, they wanted the deposit straight away and it seemed too cheap.

But just how much cheaper than market rates was it actually?

It turns out the scammers had lifted the details of the property from a genuine listing on realestateVIEW.com.au (pictured below).

The original listing was a four-bedroom terrace that had an asking rent of $6,546 per month for the four-bedroom, two-level terrace.

To confirm her suspicions Kieryn decided to goad the scammer to see how far they would go.

“I forgot to mention we own a small dog… If this is a problem that’s OK we can send her to a shelter or have her put down. We just really love the house more than anything,” Kieryn wrote.

“Also is there a basement? Or somewhere that can be locked from the outside and is sound proof?

While normal landlords would recognise Kieryn as likely a dud tenant, the scammers were undeterred.

“We feel you are the ideal tenant we are looking for and have approved your rental request,” the scammers replied, clearly unfazed by her odd requests.

“We are fine with you bring your dog to the house, we consider your dog as part of you cherished belongings.

“There is a basement which we used as a store but we have since been moved out everything there so you will have access to it when you move in.”

The scammers then provided their bank details, an account at Suncorp Bank, and once more requested Kieryn pay the requested amount.

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