Applying for properties online creates personal data exposure for renters, which can be taken advantage of by bad actors. Online rental applications require a renter to share, at a minimum, their name, email address, phone number with unknown, unverified landlords – renters could typically apply for 50 – 100 properties before securing suitable accommodation so the exposure can be significant.
But it’s only contact information…what’s the big deal?
Yes, it’s only contact information however renters are also divulging elements of their personal circumstances with people they don’t know. Details including work/study, origin, budget, travel dates etc. are often disclosed in standard online property applications. Not overly personal or sensitive information however it can be used to create a more targeted, personalised scam if it falls into the hands of the wrong people.
Unsolicited property offers
A scam on the rise involves the use of this personal information to target renters directly, often in the form of unsolicited property offers. Let’s say you’re a renter and you apply for what you think is legitimate property online – most people assume that scammers will respond directly and attempt to perpetrate the fraud from there. Surprisingly, this isn’t always the case as bad actors will share renter’s information with associates or create another fake listing/identity and subsequently contact the renter separately with a property that fits their needs.
- Scammer sets up a fake listing (property A) on a reputable platform online
- Renter applies for the property and provides the relevant personal information
- Scammer or associates (assuming a different identity) contact the renter regarding another property (property B)
- Renter responds to the unsolicited offer and is ultimately falls victim to the scam.
But why would a scammer use a second fake identity/property?
By creating the second property and identity, the scammer can continue to operate on the platform (with property A) and it can be very difficult to establish the origin of the fraud.
It also adds a layer of confusion and scammers can operate more freely using VPNs etc. as the communication and messaging is conducted via email, whatsapp etc. as opposed to the original platform.
How can renters protect themselves?
Let’s start by reiterating the fact that most landlords are legitimate and sharing limited personal information via property applications is usually fine.
There are however fraudsters in existence, as discussed, and it’s critical to protect and safeguard yourself as a renter. We’ve listed some practical steps below:
- Beware of unsolicited property offers – this may consist of a message, email etc. regarding a property you didn’t apply for from somebody you didn’t know. Proceed with a higher degree of caution, if at all.
- Communicate on legitimate platforms – try to keep messaging on the original platform if possible and be wary if a landlord want’s to take the conversation to alternative communication channels like whatsapp etc.
- Complete Secureprop Verify before you make any payment to the landlord – this will ensure that the landlord is who they say they are
- Consider Secureprop Escrow if the landlord requests payment of deposit and/or first month’s rent prior to move in
- Proceed with a healthy degree of caution.
Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need further assistance.