After applying for more than 15 rental properties, a Melbourne mum of three thought she’d finally struck gold last week when she spotted a woman advertising a property on Facebook.
“We had just moved out of our rental and back to my mother's while we were looking for a new rental,” Skye told Yahoo News Australia. “I joined all the private rental groups on Facebook, saw an ad and replied that I was interested.”
About an hour later she received a message from the woman called Ashley, who’s Facebook account said she lived in the US, asking if Skye needed an apartment. The mother said she was chasing a home for herself, partner and three kids as they were “currently homeless due to the rental crisis”.
‘Real estate agent’ demands $50 fee for inspection
The woman went on to share a series of photos of a property on Ince Place in Melton West that was being leased for “around $400 to $450 a week”, before directing Skye to contact the real estate agents whose email addresses she provided.
Two days later she followed up, asking if the Melbourne mum had reached out to them. Skye said she’d been busy with work and her children, before going on to email the agent that day.
It was their response regarding the three-bedroom property that left her in “shock and disbelief”. “Please note, important,” the email response read. “Inspection fee must be paid before going for inspection.”
When Skye challenged the agent, they replied that a $50 charge was necessary to inspect the house. “This is because many people [come] for [the] inspection and don’t later take the rent,” the agent said.
Telling the agent that “this is madness” and refusing to pay the fee, Skye told the woman on Facebook what had happened. She appeared not to be aware of the fee, before saying “oh that’s right, think you have to [pay]”.
Actual real estate agent confirms scam
The property in question is officially being leased by Raine and Horne in Melton.
Its director, Kieran Carson, confirmed to Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday morning that ‘Ashley’ is not related to the company “at all” and that “there is no such cost of $50 to inspect”.
“It's pretty obvious that they’re not linked to Raine and Horne and there's no way you can inspect that property unless you come to Raine and Horne, no one else has keys,” he said.
“Scammers will be scammers, so there's not much we can do. All I suggest to people is that you go through the actual agent.”
Scammers taking advantage of desperate tenants
Skye says in retrospect she knew it was a scam from the start.
“I think it was straight from when the girl messaged me, like I saw the red flags but went along with it,” she said. “Then they asked for the money [and] I knew it wasn’t right.”
“It feels impossible to find a home for me and my family. We’ve applied for well over 15 houses with no luck.”
Amid a competitive rental market, scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the situation.
A Sydney mother of five got caught up in a scam which saw her lose $2,000 when she was tricked into handing over money for the bond on a privately advertised property.
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