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Singapore

Property agencies warn of scammers impersonating agents, asking for deposits to secure viewings

Property agencies warn of scammers impersonating agents, asking for deposits to secure viewings

File image of a person looking through property listings. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: Local property agencies have warned about a new type of scam, where scammers impersonate property agents and ask for deposits to secure viewings.

Huttons Group said on Monday (Mar 14) that these scammers would use fake identity cards from the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA), and then upload fake listings on “alternative platforms”.

When contacted by a prospective tenant, the scammer would ask for a deposit even before any property viewings are conducted.

But after receiving the deposit, the scammer would become uncontactable, said Huttons.

In one case, the scammer even sent a tenancy agreement to be signed, and asked for deposits to “secure the unit first".

“Once transfers are made, the possibility of recovery is very low. As such, consumers remain the first line of defence against such scams,” said Huttons, which has reported four cases – all of which were for home rentals.

ERA Realty has also reported two cases, which happened last week. In these, the victims lost more than S$1,500 and S$1,600 to the scammers, said the firm's Key Executive Officer Eugene Lim.

“The scammers prey on unsuspecting or desperate tenants,” said Mr Lim, adding that in both cases, the victims were foreigners looking to rent.

He warned: “There is no such thing as: 'You transfer money first, then you can view the property'. There is no such local practice at all, so if someone does that, it is definitely a scam.”

OrangeTee & Tie has seen one such case – for a unit put up for rent at about $1,000 a month, said its CEO Steven Tan.

He added that a police report was filed, with the firm alerting all its agents about the incident.

PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE

To avoid these scams, Huttons advised members of the public to only view listings from “reputable platforms”, because they conduct screenings and allow only verified property agents to advertise with them.

One can also verify if the property agent is registered with the CEA, by doing a search on the CEA’s Public Register using the phone number advertised on the property listing.

“If the search does not lead to a property agent’s profile page, it means that the phone number is not registered with CEA by any property agent, and could be an indication that the advertisement is a scam.”

It added that one should not transfer money to strangers.

“When in doubt, get advice from a family member or another (real estate agent)," it said.

Source: CNA/cl(gr)

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