Estate agent fraud is on the rise in the UK
Rogue estate agents are behaving unlawfully and using obvious lies in their efforts to sell properties, a study finds today. Undercover investigators discovered one agent trying to get a buyer to increase their offer by incorrectly telling them another, higher offer had been made. Others said they would not pass on details of a buyer's bid unless they took out a mortgage through their company's finance arm. Complaints to the ombudsman rose by 16 per cent last year to 6,462 but many see this as the tip of the iceberg. Ombudsmen are independent, impartial and provide a free service. They investigate complaints that haven't been solved by the organisation complained against. The Consumers' Association, which carried out the probe, is now calling for an official government watchdog for the industry. The group uncovered serious breaches of the law and widespread use of complex, misleading and potentially illegal contracts.
Another type of this criminality is rental fraud. Rental fraud happens when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property. In reality, the property does not exist, has already been rented out, or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time. The victim loses the upfront fee they have paid and is not able to rent the property they thought they had secured with the payment. Rental fraudsters often target students looking for university accommodation.
Action fraud UK have provided tips online to help people learn how to prevent being attacked by an estate agent fraudster.
- Do not send money to anyone advertising properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine.
- If you need to secure accommodation in the UK from overseas, seek the help of the employer or university you are coming to, or get a friend, contact or relative to check the property exists and is available.
- Do not pay any money until you or a reliable contact has visited the property with an agent or the landlord.
- Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas Electricity or HMO Licence.
- Do not be pressurised into transferring large sums of money. Transfer funds to a bank account having obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly after the above steps have been followed. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer any money via a money transfer service like Western Union.
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