Today’s #LifeSchool is coming from recent experience and shows how online, if something is too good to be true, it usually is, and desperation to get something can lead to costly mistakes.
I start by setting the scene and updating a bit on what us lot have been up to, as it’s been a while since I posted (being that I seem to be resident more now on my radio show and instagram).
We took the decision a little while ago to relocate to the coast. Not a decision we took lightly, as I bloody hate moving with a passion, but we agreed at the end of last year that we no longer feel the town fits us as a family, what with rents raising again by £200 in a year to £1350 a month for a house on our street, and being unhappy in general with the quality of life in the borough. We’ve not been given our marching orders, in fact, we love our current Landlord (unusual for us) but we have started looking to the Dorset area at our own pace.
As a result, we have posted online as we’ve had success finding a house this way before.
A while back, I posted on Gumtree, which I find is the best resource as you can advertise on their Wanted Property section for free. Its also where I look most days for any properties that have come up from Private Landlords, as, unlike RightMove and Zoopla, ads are instantly view-able.
My ad was simple, just asking for a 2 or 3 bed unfurnished house, with a good sized garden, close to local amenities, as well as saying we are relocating in part due to Littlest being far healthier in clean country coastal air than in the built up area we are in now. We also, hoping to reel in a Private individual, said we will take on a house needing a little cosmetic improvement, as we find sometimes this lowers your deposit.
We had a few responses, unfortunately none which were suitable, but as we have no notice period to mean we have to rush into anything, we didn’t mind.
I did, however, receive a text in March, which asked me to email a Miss Miller about a property she was sure would meet our requirements.
Not feeling anything was amiss, and having had other texts, I emailed on the address the provided- firstname.lastname@example.org, and received an email back straight away;
I didn’t even question it. The photos she sent were of an utterly beautifully furnished home, which most people would jump at at that price. The only reason I never continued with the conversation, bar to email back once to decline, was because the property offered to me was not in Dorset, but in Wales.
I didn’t give it a second thought until yesterday, when another text came through-
Now, I’ll admit, I was a little questioning of the wording, but not everyone who rents houses has perfect English, and that doesn’t rule them out as a Landlord. Especially not since the name of the email address was clearly Spanish. I did feel the text was familiar but I emailed straight away. This is the reply I got;
I couldn’t help noticing that, although some of the details had been changed, and it was from a different email address, the two emails were ridiculously similar. I also looked up the address given for the property and the photos of the house she sent me look nothing like the photos you can find online when the small estate she refers to was built. It is also an estate of very few houses but mostly modern flats, none of which are three bedroom. The photos sent were very similar- a beautiful home with modern furniture but a period home with big sash windows- not a modern home on a modern estate.
I clocked straight away and alerted Gumtree via Twitter. They are now investigating and will be sending the details to the relevant body.
It is a known scam on Gumtree and other similar sites. These scammers prey on people’s desperate need in some cases to find a property at a time when it is hard as hell for many to find an affordable home in an area they want to live in. By tapping into this need, they can guarantee that a few people will fall for their scam and send the required £500 by transfer- which they will never see again.
I decided to humor “Mrs Ester” after she text me (the cheeky bugger whoever she/he is) asking why I had yet to respond. And lo and behold, her “solicitors” bank details are now in my inbox and that of Gumtree- I wont post them here in case this is an account they are scamming.
To make matters worse, the scammer asked me for a range of personal details for their “solicitors credit and reference checks”.
This is easy to fall for as it’s a practice used by 99% of genuine agents and owners, and I’ve had many performed in the past which I’ve had to pay anything between £50 and £120 for. So to be offered one for free would definitely entice people who have a tight budget.
I, obviously sensing a scam, used one of my own- using a fake address generator and giving a fake approximation of my name. To which Mrs Ester asked me to send her two passport photos of myself for “identification purposes”. No doubt if I had of done, my identification would have been used for further frauds.
So, this Life School is asking you all, however desperate you are, always always query messages if you are advertising in the same way.
If the deposit is tiny on a home filled with designer furniture, and they don’t ask for fees, they probably aren’t being nice and trying to get you homed, they are very likely to be conning you. In the case of homes in Dorset, even a deposit on an unfurnished home is in the region of £1,300+, and considering how much both “Jess Miller” and “Mrs Ester” wanted someone to assure them they’d look after their “facilities”, asking for such a tiny deposit is questionable too.
Check the persons credentials, if they claim to be from an agency, find the agency online. If it’s a sophisticated scam, and the agents exists, ring them and ask if they have someone in their employ with that name. If not, its likely to be a scam.
Look up the address they claim to have a home in, like I did. Does the type of home match the description or images?
Never, ever agree to a bank transfer, I’ve never known a company to ask for this to be given. Most will allow you to pay cash if you are suspicious- if they wont let you, they are probably dodgy.
And if they speak like one of those “Princess Conseula of Guadalope who has cash monies for you to hold for £1,000000000 in return for help oh gracious one” they are doubtless a scamming bastard.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t find a decent property via these sites- I have done in the past and countless others probably have too. If you do sense a scam, it’s always worth emailing or tweeting at the site so they can remove these fraudsters.
However small amount of time you have to find a new home, however much the property sounds amazing, always exercise caution.
And don’t become another victim of these despicable scams.