Scammers posing as the owners of a Perth townhouse on the market for $979,000 tried to con thousands of dollars out of prospective tenants by listing it as available to rent on a free classifieds website.
The scammers - who claimed to be doctors moving to Tasmania - invited prospective tenants to the first home open at the Pisconeri Street property on Saturday, advising it would be rented on a "first come, first served" basis.
The scammers took photos and details of the home from a real estate website and offered it for rent on classified website Gumtree for $400 a week.
Replying to emails from prospective tenants, they requested a downpayment of two weeks rent and a refundable $1600 bond.
Altitude Real Estate sales consultant Paul DiLanzo has received queries from confused potential buyers and tenants asking whether the home was for sale or for rent.
"On the day of the open we had six couples show up for the 'rental'," he said. "They were all suspicious but still showed up. There is a true desperation to get a property to rent."
Real Estate Institute of WA president David Airey said the institute got many calls from people concerned about property listings that did not sound quite right.
"Scammers are finding rental properties on legitimate websites and pretending they own them," Mr Airey said.
"They poach the real details and photos and reproduce them on free websites to attract tenants by listing the properties at much cheaper prices."
Once the scammers heard back, they forwarded fake leasing documents and asked them to electronically transfer bond money and rent, he said.
Consumer Protection WA ScamNet director David Hillyard said scammers were a major problem."We hear from people who have lost thousands of dollars . . . other times it's homeowners who have been surprised to get numerous people knocking on their door asking to inspect the property after seeing it for rent online," he said.
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.