On Sunday, February 27 2022, Lynda and James Kayll claim that they saw an advertisement on Facebook Marketplace showing a property available for rent in Marbella, Spain. Given the property was listed at an attractive price, Lynda wasted no time in contacting the advertiser and conversations followed via email. The alleged rental scammer sent her photos of personal documentation to earn her trust. A deposit of €1,500 was promptly requested to secure the booking and Lynda decided to pay it.
Having received the original deposit, the alleged rent scammer then did something unusual – they requested an advance payment of the first month’s rent in exchange for a €300 discount. This was highly unusual as landlords wouldn’t typically offer discounts, certainly not to incentivise early payment. Unfortunately, Lynda made the payment and started to plan for her holiday.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the person who opened the door to the property on the date of the victim’s arrival informed them that it was his house and it was not for rent, nor was it the first time that someone had come and asked about it. Lynda told the Euro Weekly News: “We were excited at finding such a fantastic deal and it was an enormous blow to find out it was a scam.”
Lessons learned and prevention tips
Were there red flags and how could one avoid a similar fraud in the future?
- Beware of rent discounts: as discussed above, rent discounts are highly unusual as landlords wouldn’t typically offer discounts, certainly not to incentivise early payment. This is a red flag in any market however it’s of greater concern if the rental market is strong – ask yourself why a landlord would offer a discount if demand is strong for their property?
- Pay via escrow: the victims in this instance would have avoided the scam if the upfront rental payment was held in escrow prior to the move in date. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even have progressed to that stage as the scammer would have known that they wouldn’t profit.
- Social media: pay closer attention to property advertisements on social media. This advertisement was first spotted on Facebook marketplace. There are plenty of legitimate listings on Facebook however the incidence of rent scams is elevated.
- Too good to be true: Lynda expressed her excitement at finding such “a fantastic deal”. As the old adage goes, “if it seems too good to be true, it usually is”.
Hindsight is a great thing and the red flags in this case may appear to be obvious now, however bear in mind that poor decisions can be made in haste and rent scams are direct consequence. Always pause for thought if you are unsure about something or have a feeling that it’s not right.
Need additional support?
Are you or your organisation attempting to eradicate online rental scams in your community? If so, contact us today to learn how we can help. We offer a suite of services, tailored to our partners’ needs and designed specifically to eradicate scams and secure online platforms – see some of our services below:
- Red flag detection – Our systems detect a range of red flags listed above.
- Landlord and renter identity verification – we can verify landlord and renter identity using a blend of biometric, document & database checks.
- Secure payments – we secure payments for landlords and renters as well as holding pre let rental payments and deposits in Escrow.