CRIME ADVISORY – RENTAL SCAM THROUGH ONLINE RENTAL WEBSITES
Police have received several reports of cases involving victims who fell prey to rental scams when researching for rental flats. The scammers would advertise on popular online websites and when unsuspected victims contacted them, they would be told to make advance rental payments or deposits to the scammers. The victims only realised that they have been scammed when they were asked to make further payments, or when they found out that the said flats to be rented did not exist at all. In the period of July to December 2013, there were at least 16 rental scam cases reported, with a total amount of at least $16,000/- being cheated.
Members of public are reminded to be wary of such scam and to adapt the following crime prevention measures:
– Visit the housing unit which you intend to rent to confirm its existence, state of condition and signs of multiple subletting.
– Verify the identities of the person whom you are dealing with and their relationship to the housing unit, especially when you are not engaging the services of a licensed estate agent or registered salespersons.
– Do not make any advance payment until the tenancy is confirmed and pay the rental deposit and rents by cheque or via bank transfer for documentary proof.
If you have any information related to this crime, do not hesitate to call the Police hotline at 1800-255 0000 or ‘999’ for urgent Police assistance.
In one such example of a rental scam, Police have arrested a 28-year-old man for suspected involvement in a series of rental scams. Since October 2013, Police received several reports from victims whose tenancy agreement to rent a room with the suspect failed to materialise after making the deposits. In all the cases, the suspect had cancelled the agreement at the last minute and forfeited the deposits. On 15 January 2014, officers from Ang Mo Kio Division arrested the suspect in the vicinity of Kallang Pudding Road. Preliminary investigations revealed that the suspect could be involved in at least 5 cases of cheating.