Beware of fraud in the rental market

The public is urged to be aware of  a scheme in Centurion and Pretoria relating to fraud that started late last year.
Steve van Wyk, the owner and Principal of Seeff Centurion, says the fraudsters' strategy involve trawling property websites, copying the information of properties for rent or for sale and then placing these properties on various websites as available to rent while posing as estate agents.
"The ‘estate agent' then informs the potential tenant  that there are a number of other people who are also interested in the property, but that the property will only be rented out to the first person who pays the deposit, or in some cases both the deposit and the first month's rent".
Van Wyk continues that a number of tenants then innocently pay the deposit and/or rent into the bank account of the fraudster, expecting to obtain access to the property on the 1st of the month, only to find that the cell phone number no longer exists and that the property is already occupied.
Van Wyk suggests that when a tenant is interested in a property they phone the local office of the Estate Agency to establish whether the Agent is in fact a registered Agent with that particular company first.
"The phone numbers of the Estate Agencies can be obtained via the internet, the offices of the EAAB, The Estate Agency's website or the local telephone book. Do not rely on any website or phone number that the Agent may provide to check details, as these may also be fraudulent".
Van Wyk concludes that even though people who get caught in this trap could open a case at the local police station, this process could be a long drawn out and costly affair and it makes sense to rather take the time to establish up front whether or not the Agent is a fraudster.

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