Landlords, letting agents and tenants in South Yorkshire are being warned about an increase in rental fraud.
Local police there say they are receiving a higher than average number of reports from Action Fraud about would-be tenants being targeted by fraudsters.
PC Vicki Arrowsmith, from the Fraud Co-ordination Team, says: "Victims are making enquiries in relation to properties advertised on social media and then contacting the fraudster directly via email, phone or direct messages.
"Once they agree to rent the property, they are sent a tenancy agreement via email. The victim transfers a deposit to confirm the agreement and is given a move-in date - however when they get there the property is either already rented out or the occupants have lived at the address for a number of years.
"The victims try to contact the landlord, however all the phone numbers are disconnected and the advert has disappeared.
"It can be incredibly difficult to trace those responsible for this horrible scam and get the money back. That's why it's so important everyone spreads the word about this scam to prevent others from becoming victims."
South Yorkshire police says anyone who thinks they have been a victim of rental fraud, should report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or report online at actionfraud.police.uk.
And the force is giving this advice to tenants:
- Do not send money to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine.
- If you need to secure accommodation in the UK from overseas, seek the help of the employer or university you are coming to, or get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available.
- Do not pay any money until you or a reliable contact has visited the property with an agent or the landlord.
- Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as gas, electricity or HMO licence.
- Do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a bank account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly after the above steps have been followed. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer any money via a money transfer service like Western Union.
Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.