ONLINE SCAMS: Similar scams are said to be targeting users through sites such as Gumtree.
ONLINE SCAMS: Similar scams are said to be targeting users through sites such as Gumtree.

‘Bizarre’ scam robs tenants of six weeks’ rent

ONE Warwick real estate agent has spoken out to warn the public about a rental scam that robbed her landlords of their identity and left unexpecting tenants hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

The agent, who wishes to keep her and the owners' identity anonymous, said the scam took place in the few days following the vacancy of previous tenants.

A scammer, posing as the owner, then advertised the vacant property on Facebook $100 cheaper than the real estate agency, and proceeded to ask prospective tenants for six weeks worth in rent and bond, promising to "mail out" a key.

The agent and her owner only found out about the scam when they went to prep the property for a new genuine tenant and found the duped ones moving in.

"The scammer had somehow gotten in without a key and the new tenants were loading stuff into the garage," she said.

"We found out they had already hooked up the power with Ergon Energy too."

The agent questioned how the electricity could have overlooked the move, but Ergon Energy spokesman Brett Judge said the company doesn't "ask about the property, we ask about the owner"

"Ergon Energy Retail will arrange for electricity supply for a residential customer provided the customer is able to verify their identity," he said.

"This could be either as an existing customer who is moving house, or as a new customer who provides details from their driver's license or Medicare card which verify their identity."

While the owner and the defrauded tenants had since taken the matter up with Warwick Police, the agent still couldn't believe how quickly the scammers moved.

"It was just an opportunist picking up on someone leaving," she said.

"To me, it goes to prove you have to be pretty vigilant and that if you don't keep an eye on your property all sorts of things can happen.

"But who would have thought this would happen in Warwick? It's bizarre."

At Ray White Warwick, rental agent Jodie Hughes said while she had never come across a scam of this kind, she had seen her fair share of rental dupes.

"In the past, I've had people applying for a property and they gave fake owner references," she said.

"I only knew it because I knew who owned the property, but they answered all my questions about the prospective tenant."

Mrs Hughes said it highlighted the possible uncertainty of going private with a rental agreement.

"Your safest bet is always with an agency," she said.

"They're there as a third person to mediate between the owner and a tenant and there's a lot less problems that way.

'There's not a whole lot of help for prospective tenants who go privately. We have ways and means of checking these things."

If you believe you have been scammed, file a report through Queensland Police 'Cybercrime' system or contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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