Tenants warned after scam offering cheap rents exposed by estate agents

PUBLISHED: 09:53 22 February 2018

North Somerset tenants and lettings agencies are being targeted by an online fraud campaign offering properties for rent at reduced rates.

A small number of people posing as landlords on social media Buy and Sell groups have offered properties currently on the market with letting agents for rent at reduced rates.

Mayfair Town & Country, which has a branch in Clevedon, was alerted to one of the fraudulent adverts after a member of the public contacted one of its offices about a property for rent on Facebook.

Photos on the advert had been taken from the agency’s website with the advertiser, who was claiming to be the property’s legal owner, offering reduced monthly rental rates and asking for an upfront deposit.

The advert explained they lived a long distance away from the property but would post keys to the tenant once the deposit had been received in full.

David Powell, operations director at Mayfair, is warning tenants to be wary of such claims.

He said: “As much as we understand tenants approach landlords directly to avoid associated agency fees, we advise them to tread carefully.

“Unfortunately we are unable to control the use of photos and information which is publicly available on our website, which makes this type of crime worryingly easy if targeting vulnerable tenants.

“A benefit of going through an agent when renting is that tenants are provided with an element of protection, which means their deposit is protected and scenarios like this can be avoided.

“Our advice would be to be vigilant and to contact your local agent for advice if you have any concerns.

“We have a member of the Association of Residential Lettings Agents in all of our lettings offices who will be happy to help with any queries.”

Facebook users who have publicly responded to the advert have been contacted and there is no evidence to suggest anyone has paid any money.

Hobbs & Webb estate agents, based in Weston, has also been affected by the scam.

Estate agents which have been targeted told the Times they are unsure if the fraudulent adverts are being placed by an individual or organised group.

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