3 min read

Be Careful of Such Rental Scams

Be Careful of Such Rental Scams

We read about lots of scams online and in newspapers. We always think it does not happen to us. We think it is not possible etc.

But regardless of the numerous media reports and warnings by the authorities about scams, the number of cases here hit a record high in 2023. There were 46,563 cases reported in 2023, and that this is the highest number of scam cases since they started tracking them in 2016.

The 2023 figure is up a very huge 46.8 per cent from the 31,728 cases in 2022.

A lot of monies were lost this way.

Property Rental Market Scam : One Example

I think the property market is not 100% clear of such dangers too. We do have our share of scary incidents and bad news too. One such example is trying to find rental properties through social media feeds and pages, rather than established property portals.

So let's talk about one that are currently quite possible that you meet so if you are out looking for a rental property (especially if you have sold your property and need to wait 15 months to buy resale), so please work with a reputable property agent who will make sure you are safe. We are constantly on the lookout for scam deals and worrying for our clients.

Step 1 of the Scam Scheme : Deceiving to secure a rental property

The fraudster pretends to be a tenant seeking to rent a legitimate property. This is done by sending a "personal assistant" to meet with the landlord or the real estate salesperson representing the landlord, in order to view the property available for rent.

The fraudster claims to be located overseas, making it impossible for them to physically inspect the property or engage with the landlord or their representative in person. This is quite common as they can claim they are overseas or is a foreign talent coming over to Singapore to take up a job.

If the landlord or their representative agrees to proceed without verifying the identity of the tenant in person, the fraudster instructs their personal assistant to take over and rent the property using personal information of an unsuspecting individual that they have acquired without consent.

So they got their hands on a property to "rent out".

But they are using this property to cheat.

Step 2 of the Scam Scheme : Using the Property to deceive potential tenants

Once the property is successfully rented out, the scammer assumes the identity of a CEA-registered RES (real estate agent) and promotes the property for rent, falsely claiming to be the authorized representative of the landlord. The advertisements are usually done through social media as portals require some kind of verification with the real estate agent to allow us to post the listings.

Communication with interested tenants is primarily done through WhatsApp messages rather than calls or face-to-face meetings.

The scammer arranges for property viewings with prospective tenants through a supposed personal assistant (since the actual "landlord" is not a real landlord).

Upon a tenant's expression of interest in renting, the scammer sends a tenancy agreement via WhatsApp for signing. Subsequently, the scammer instructs the tenant to transfer funds (e.g., security deposit or rent) into an account purportedly belonging to the landlord but actually controlled by the scammer.

Once payment is received, communication ceases abruptly from the fraudster's end.

Be Careful of Such Rental Scams
Bye Bye Money

What we will do as Agents

Our role as Real Estate Salespersons (RESs) in preventing property rental scams involve conducting thorough due diligence checks during property rental transactions.

It is crucial (I would say, die die die must do) for RESs to verify the identities of both landlords and tenants by examining original identification documents, meeting them in person or via video call, and validating their passes and ID documents through official government websites.

Additionally, RESs must confirm the identity of any third parties claiming to represent the tenant or act on their behalf by checking the Council for Estate Agencies' Public Register.

Failure to comply with these precautions may result in perpetuating rental scams. It is imperative for all property agents to adhere to these guidelines diligently in order to safeguard against property rental fraud.

On your end, do work with someone you are comfortable or have confidence with to rent a property. Don't try to save pennies to lose pounds okay.