It was interesting yesterday to see the BBC’s piece about the growing prevalence of ‘online rental fraud’ – basically, where a fraudster/criminal advertises a rental property for a great price, and people then pay a deposit for it without ever seeing the property – because it’s a great price in a sought-after area.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Yep – the fraudster doesn’t own the property, doesn’t represent the agents, and has no real connection to it at all. They’ve just grabbed photos, submitted the ad, and then people pay the ‘deposit’ into an account named by the fraudster.
Now, while I think it’s pretty scummy, I can’t help but also see it as more of an idiot tax. You’ve got to be pretty desperate – and pretty fucking dim – to put down money without seeing the place you’re renting, particularly without ever meeting an agent/agency/landlord etc. I know that these people are good at getting people to believe they’re valid, and that there’s this urgency – but really, it’s still taking advantage of people too dumb to look at a deal and think “what’s wrong with this picture?”
Maybe that’s harsh. Maybe not. For me, it’s hard to feel real sympathy for someone who just leaves themselves open to this sort of shit. Take a look at what one victim says in the article…
[He] said: “I was willing to take the flat without a viewing based on the location, just on the price of it.
[I felt] anger, disgust, I was really disappointed. I was thinking, ‘Wow I’ve spent money I couldn’t afford and what’s happening to me right now? I’m in a nightmare and I can’t wake up’.'”
I think the worst part, probably, is that now it’s been mentioned by BBC and on TV, it’s something that other scammers will look at and thing “Oooh, that’s a good idea”, so it’ll become even more prevalent…