The West

House hunters are being warned about online rental fraud after a number of people have been scammed into putting down money for bonds and made advanced rental payments.

It is understood that scammers have been using classified sites such as Gumtree to post fake rental advertisements online.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said that there are a number of tactics that the fraudsters use to reel in house hunters.

"What is tending to happen is that the scammers are lifting pictures, descriptions and locations of home which are being offered for sale or offered for rent off real estate agent sites and they then put it on to classified sites like Gumtree," Mr Hillyard said.

"They'll communicate with people by phone or by email and they'll be quite fussy in saying that they want non-smokers, non-drinkers which gives the issue an air of legitimacy, that they're being a bit fussy about the potential renter."

Mr Hillyard said that the scammers always find a reason as to why they cannot meet for a viewing of the house.

They also increase their trustworthiness by saying they have high-profile jobs such as a doctor or a lawyer.

He also added that this kind of scamming is on the rise particularly in WA because of the tight rental market.

House hunters are warned to never wire money until they have met the seller or renter in person, viewed the house and have keys in their hands.

Mr Hillyard said that a lot of the time these scams are linked back to Asian accounts or people in other States who are unaware that they are simply playing the role of a money mule.

He said that there is not a lot that can be done in terms of getting the money back or stopping these scammers, but that the public needs to keep a stern eye out for signs of a scam.

The West Australian

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