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How to avoid rental scam searching online for flat to rent in London
Online property advertising websites give you a chance to find overseas property rentals in the country of your interest prior to arrival. When you are located in France or USA you can find a nice flat in London, contact its owner, agree the rental deal, pay online and then just collect the keys on arrival.
However you may face unsuspected problems so in this article I will tell how to avoid rental scam when you are searching online for a flat to rent in London.
If you are going to visit London and looking for a flat or house to rent please be aware of potential risk of being scammed by false “landlords” or “estate agents”
There are many rental scam schemes but the most used is very simple, however many people are still caught on this trick.
Too good to be true
When you are searching for a flat for rent in London you strive to get a good location, nice interior, and the most valued – very affordable price, the cheaper is the better. Here is the bait!
If a property ad tells you the flat has:
- Very good location
- Luxurious interior
- Price much much lower than average on the market
It means….you are lucky? No! It means it’s a scam!
Do you really believe that God is so gracious to send a luxury 1 bedroom studio flat to rent in Kensington and Chelsea for £500/month especially to you?
If you are looking at such ad the best thing you can do is to report the property listing if the classifieds website has this button or link, and close the ad page.
From Africa with love or Nigerian 419
If you are still hoping for a miracle, OK, you can tempt fate. Try to call the “landlord”. Most likely you will not reach him because the phone number neither exists nor belongs to a private person. It can be a fax number of a college or it was copied from anywhere on the Web and belongs to a person who has nothing to do with the advertising property.
If you send the “landlord” an email most likely he replies saying he is a respectable lawyer, doctor or whatever and is now outside London and the country, more likely somewhere in West Africa, but needs to know you are serious about the rent before he returns to show you the property. Another promise is to send you keys and documents for the flat after receiving deposit payment from you.
The scammer will ask you to send him a deposit by Western Union or MoneyGram. Somewhere to Nigeria. That’s the stupidest thing you can do. The best thing is to report the property ad at the classifieds website you’ve found it and never reply to the scammer.
This is a Nigerian Scam aka 419 Fraud The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud. The majority of property rental scams is a variation of Nigerian “419″ advance fee fraud and use free property ads on classifieds websites. Located in Nigeria, scammers grab property photos and descriptions from the Internet and post them with on-the-steal price on free classifieds websites. Scammers can also reply to tenants ads found on classifieds websites. The common thing is they ask to send money via Western Union or MoneyGram, usually to fake IDs.
Sometimes a scam is not so evident but it’s still a scam.
The scamming “landlord” may ask you to prove that you are serious about his property rental and send Western Union or MoneyGram payment to YOUR friend, partner or relative and then scan the receipt and send it to him. Having all information about the transaction he promises to come down to London to show you the property and you can withdraw the money from Western Union or MoneyGram and pay him.
Where is the catch?
The scammer knows the transaction details from the scan and with false ID he can easily withdraw the money from Western Union or MoneyGram. Your money, right. And he will never come down to London to show you that luxury cheap flat to rent in the City of London because it never exists or he never owns it.
Let’s resume. To avoid rental scam when looking for a London flat online, you should remember
1. Never believe an ad promising a very beautiful flat in a very good place at extremely low price.
2. Never pay deposit prior to check the landlord’s identity.
3. Never send money via Western Union or MoneyGram as deposit
1. Review average price for property rentals in London at London Rents Map
2. Search for the landlord’s name, phone, email in Google. The search may return many unpleasant facts and topics from anti-scam boards.
3. Ask the landlord to show you his ID scan and tell you his membership number at the National Landlords Association if any. You can check if a landlord is a member of the NLA at Online register of landlords
4. It’s recommended to deal only with NLA accredited landlords.
5. Read about government regulation of private sector renting in the UK to make sure you understand all rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
In the next article I will tell you how to avoid rental scam when you live in London and searching online for flats to rent.