Detectives from the Cybercrime Squad are investigating an increasing series of reports of rental scams where a property is falsely offered for rent using online advertisements.
With the current high demand for rental properties and an increase in rental prices, the rental market is becoming increasingly competitive, and properties are harder to obtain.
Subsequently, well known property websites and online marketplaces are increasingly popular for offenders to utilise and deceitfully convince victims that a property is available for rent.
Generally, victims are enticed with cheap rent and persuaded to act quickly by paying a deposit to secure the property.
The offender may send photos and videos of a property, real addresses, copies of land titles and sometimes scans of passports (which they will purport are their own) to make it feel genuine.
They will often ask for one month’s rent and bond upfront, before requesting the victim send through identification documents such as drivers’ licenses, Medicare cards and passports.
Once offenders have this information, they will often use the identification to commit identity fraud and scam other unsuspecting victims.
Since 1 January of this year, Victoria Police has received reports of over 61 rental scams, with a total reported loss of $125,819.23 so far.
Those aged between 18-29 were the highest reported victims, with over 40 reports received from that age bracket.
Eleven reports were received in the 30-39 age bracket, four each in 40-49 and 50-59, and one in 60-69 (one report has no age recorded).
The total reported loss is comprised of victims located in Victoria and where persons of interest have not yet been identified for the offending, as well as interstate victims where the person of interest has been identified in Victoria, so it is likely the actual total reported loss is much higher.
It appears most offenders are located within Australia and are not known to the victims.
Investigators are warning people to take steps to protect themselves – including never signing a lease agreement or making payment before having viewed a property.
Offenders will often create a sense of urgency by saying the property won’t be available for much longer, or that they have other people waiting to put down a deposit.
They may also say that they are interstate or overseas and consequently the property is unavailable for viewing.
You should always inspect a property in person, or by sending someone on your behalf.
If you are interstate or overseas looking for a rental, ask someone you trust to make the inquiries on your behalf, or consider using a real estate agent.
If you have been the victim of cybercrime, speak to police if you have concerns about a matter, or use online forums such as ReportCyber and the ESafety Commissioner which will assess the report and provide them to police.
Anyone with knowledge of these incidents and those responsible is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppers.com.au
Victoria Police News – Tuesday 9 May 2023