Martin & Co has warned of an “increasingly common” Facebook scam after two women in Devon were duped out of £1,200 by sophisticated online fraudsters.
National Fraud Reporting Centre police are now looking in to the case after Jenny and Cheryl Foster-Mitchell lost the money after being lured into paying a deposit and fees for a rental property in Plymouth (pictured, right).
The fake landlord had stolen images and copy from Rightmove and used the material to create a fake listing on Facebook for the property, and then persuaded the two women to part with £600 as a deposit and £600 as a month’s rent in advance, which they paid they bank transfer.
But Jenny and Cheryl did not get to see inside the property in person and instead were told the keys weren’t available. As an alternative, they were told to visit the property and look through the windows. The landlord then asked the two women for references and copies of their driving licences.
After they told the fake landlord that it was their “perfect” home because pets were allowed, they were then asked for a further £400 as a ‘maintenance fee’ but became suspicious the payments was requested via Moneygram.
They contacted Martin & Co who confirmed the real landlord’s name, and had to then ask their current landlord for a temporary extension to their rental contract, to enable them to find another property to rent.
“Unfortunately this type of property ‘scam’ is becoming increasingly common throughout Devon,” Chris Whitaker (pictured, left) of Martin & Co’s Plymouth Office, told the local paper.
“Our advice to all potential tenants is to be extremely cautious when it comes to passing money to unregulated agents or landlords who are able to act anonymously and with relative impunity through various internet sites and online forums.
“Tenants should instead seek to use regulated agents who are members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and members of a government approved Client Money Protection (CMP) scheme.