As the old saying goes “if it sounds to good to be true it probably is”. Well that’s exactly what dozens of hard up Brits are finding out when looking for property online. It’s a stressful time looking to relocate, first you have to decide on the area you want to live then you have to find somewhere that fits in within your budget, then of course comes the sacrificies needed in order to finance the move.
The average person will move twelve times in there lifetime and its estimated three million people moved around the UK in 2013. That mean’s there is big bucks on the line and where there is big bucks to be made; scammers will move in.
How this scam works is an individual will place an advert on a website. The photos om these websites are high quality and show decent accomdation. However when we reverse image searched these photos, we found that they’d come from interior design websites, airbnb and social media.
We found these adverts on popular websites gumtree, dssmove and rightmove. Some of the first destinations the average property seeker will seek. The scammer advertises a property to rent at below market value, posing as a private landlord.
The reason for this in there own words is that “not using a letting agent and not paying fees and commissions allows me to ask a lower rental price than others.” Perfectly reasonable on the surface and for some dealing with a private landlord is the preferred option.
Personally i’ve always rented through private landlords, i prefer to know who i’m dealing with and like the personal touch in my dealings. Luckily i’ve encountered few problems.
The property advertised usually looks fantastic and is in a desirable location. Major cities like Manchester, Birmingham and London to name a few. The scammer has dialouge over a series of emails.Giving a story about how they have to leave the country due to work commitments. They state that there “not after a high profit, but after good tenants who will treat my property as their own home.” They add that once they find a suitable tenant they will return to the area”to show the house and complete the lease agreement.”
In the second email they explain, “Like I already said in my first email, my current location is Spain. Unfortunately, lately I have had bad experiences with prospective tenants so that it happened for me to travel to Birmingham for nothing which involved a complete waste of time and efforts. Having received proofs from tenants according with they being interested in renting (passport, job contracts showing their earnings, bank statements) proved to be ineffective for my certainty. Some tenants tend to put additional conditions even if they had not been discussed previously or worse, they sometimes still try to negotiate after traveling back to Spain. Some of them also asked me to wait until the end of the month for them to get paid. I hope my explanation is enough for you to understand my point of view and why I chose Airbnb.”
Basically the suggestion from the scammers is, is that you use airbnb to pay to rent the property for two months, thus protecting both parties, then at the end of the two months if you wish to keep up the tennancy they shall return to the UK and sort out the proper rental agreement. It all seems perfectly plausible and for those of us who aren’t cynics of such schemes it could be easily believed.
The scammer sends a link to airbnb for you to deposit payment and read reviews as they claim they have multiple properties they have rented this way before. The website they send you to though is not airBNB. It’s a clone of the site with a very close URL.
This Phishing scam is very similar to that Huffington Post writer Sarah Ruiz-Grossman fell for last year losing “$3,800” when she was looking for two holiday apartments to cover the period of her wedding celebrations. OUCH!
During our investigation we managed to obtain a copy of the passport of the scammer and have reported him to anti fraud authorities.
In fairness to DSSmove, two of the four scam adverts we encountered were quickly removed. Unlike the ones on gumtree and rightmove. One would hope in the light on this they tighten restrictions on those who wish to advertise on their sites. Although nothing is ever going to be completly 100% fraud proof. Especially in these days of the internet bandit, where people will happilly take your money and run. In this scam, because you believe your going through airBNB you believe you have more security then if you was to transfer money direct into someones bank account.
Some of the names of scammers we’ve uncovered in this investigation are; Rasmund Sorste, Amanda Groves, Theresa Barret, Mike Winnard, John Kairis, Denis Harrison, Daniel Howl,Mr Conrad Alban Hayward, Espinosa Edison, Espinosa Edison, Kenneth Rafn, Gould Timothy Allan, Martha Perkes, Elizabeth Gilmore, David Powell and Stephen Dixon. Although these could all be aliases.
I never intended to investigate such a matter, it just so happens I’m looking to relocate to Birmingham and noticed a trend which I think needs to be made public so people can avoid been scammed and to make the property industy aware so they can tighten controls. I have sent emails to the sites mentioned in this article but have so far heard nothing back, which is dissapointing. Thankfully I wasn’t scammed out of any money and my hunt for a decent flat in Birmingham. Hopefully no one else will be but if you I suggest you contact actionfraud but it’s unlikely you will ever get your money back.