Being a property owner is not all about collecting the rental bond, or handing your investment over to a real estate agent. It’s important to learn how to spot issues before they become serious problems. One of the most common involves rental scams.

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Photo: iStock/4maksym

Spotting a scam, whether you’re a landlord or a tenant is easy when you know what you’re looking for. At the end of the day, trusting your gut instinct should be your first line of defense when you’re confronted with a scam. Rent.com.au offers these tips to help protect yourself online:

Avoid scams that use the Rent.com.au fraudulently

Phishing is a very common form of online fraud. This is where scammers will seek to convince you to hand over your personal details by posing as a legitimate and trusted company, usually by email. There are some simple things you can look out for if you receive an email from Rent.com.au which you think may be fraudulent:

  • As a landlord subscribed to Rent.com.au, any emails you receive from Rent.com.au will likely come from marketing@rent.com.au. Always check the spelling of the email you receive. If the communication has come from an email address which looks suspect, it’s not likely to be us.
  • Rent.com.au does not request credit card information via email.
  • Look at the template the email has arrived on. Does it look similar to other communications you’ve received from Rent.com.au? Check the footer of the email and see if there are clear links to pages on Rent.com.au.
  • If we ask you to follow a link in an email, you will always be directed to a site which starts with www.rent.com.au. Always double check the spelling, scammers will sometimes try to use similar versions.
  • We will not send you an email saying we’re about to suspend your account, and ask you to click on a link in that email.
  • We will never ask you to change your password on an email, unless you have specifically requested your password to be changed from the Rent.com.au website.
  • If you receive a verification SMS from Rent.com.au, it will not include a link for you to click on. It will only include the verification code.

Common tenant scams

Your tenant is not who they say they are: Identity theft is a fact of life. The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a Personal Fraud Survey for 2010-11 and found that Australians lost $1.4 billion due to personal fraud. The survey results showed that 0.3 per cent (44,700) of Australians were victims of identity theft. How sure are you that the person who is renting your home is who they say they are? Be sure to identify the identity of the tenant you are renting to by requesting official identification.

Tenants who don’t intend to pay up: This scam can occur when a new tenant moves into a property with no intention of paying the rent, which forces the landlord to evict them. Sometimes this process can take a few months until the tenant is forced to move, leaving you out of pocket financially. Do you know your tenant’s rental history? Complete a RentCheck on Rent.com.au and get the information you need to choose the right tenant. After the background check, call the prospective tenant’s employer and at least two recent agents or landlords.

The tenant uses friends to pose as their employer: This is another common sub-scam. To protect yourself against this ploy, verify that the person works at the company and then call back the employer with another question. This will help to confirm that you’re talking to the right person.

Your tenant is moving from outside the country: This is a fairly common scam. You might have recently loaded a listing to a rental property website and received a response from someone who claims to be moving to your area from outside the country. They might say that their employer is paying for their relocation expenses, which will be directly mailed to you. This amount could be over and above your asking rental amount and the scammer could ask you to reimburse them with the difference. Keep an eye out for poor spelling and grammar as a telltale sign.

The applicant shows ‘extreme urgency’: Tenants are usually keen to move into their rental property as soon as possible, but if they seem overly eager to move in immediately, it could be a sign that something is awry. Remember, this is not always an indication of a scam. However, any tenant you want to rent to should understand that you must have enough time to complete all their background checks and call referees before they move in.

If you are suspicious about an encounter you’ve had online, contact Rent.com.au at support@rent.com.au or call 1300 736 810. 

You can also get in touch with Rent.com.au by sending us a Facebook message

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