Rental Scams and How To Avoid Them

October 24, 2022

Rental scams have been making rounds in Western Australia. Landlords are advised to watch out for potential scams and be more aware of them.

According to WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection, 40 rental scam reports have been received this year, with 21 victims losing $41,000. The figures are alarming as the cases are higher compared to last year.

One example of a recent scam is an international arrival to Perth who stayed at a hotel while waiting for a rental confirmation. She had made several payments to the scammer of $13,100 in total. The scammer sent her an email explaining they could not deliver the keys to the hotel due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their office. Soon after she made the initial payment, the scammer demanded more rent in advance.

In another case, a woman from a regional area wanted to relocate to Perth. She paid $10,400 following an email exchange with the scammer pretending to be a property manager. The woman had also sent personal, financial, and identification documents to the scammer.

The alarming cases prompted Consumer Protection to investigate these reports and urgently warn potential tenants to be more aware of this scam activity, be careful in engaging with suspicious rental ads and not give out personal information. Consumer Protection has also advised private landlords, real estate agents and property managers to protect their intellectual property by taking cybersecurity measures. One example is to watermark the property photos; this prevents scammers from grabbing and using the property photos and limiting them from editing.

Landlords should also note that it is illegal to charge more than four weeks' rent for a bond and more than two weeks' rent in advance, plus a maximum of $260 for a pet bond where relevant. This information helps tenants with narrowing down which rental listings to engage.

Tips for tenants to avoid rental scams:

  • Ask someone you know who's nearby the property area you plan on renting to inspect the property on your behalf
  • Be mindful of the information you give out. Do not send personal and financial information.
  • Watch out for images that look like they were internet-grabbed. Watermarked property photos are better.
  • Review the profile used for posting the ad and check if they are legitimate.
  • Report suspicious profiles. You may lodge scam reports on the WA ScamNet website.

Tips for landlords on how to counter scammers:

  • Use watermarked photos to assure potential tenants your listing is legit while also prohibiting scammers from grabbing your property photos.
  • Engage with a reputable property management company. They will correctly set up your rental listings for you and are aware of scammer tricks.