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July 9, 2012

Olympics fans face fraud game

  • National Fraud Intelligence bureau records hundreds of incidents of rental fraud
  • Renters urged to conduct ID checks
  • 192.com finds landlords are highly trusted when handing over money

ID checking website 192.com is urging awareness of rental fraud in the run up to the Olympics as scammers trick fans into renting bogus accommodation.

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 or has been rented to multiple victims at once.

According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau there has already been 353 separate cases of rental fraud in the UK this year. A spokesman from the bureau says:

"Rental fraud is a re-occurring threat, with students, holidaymakers and attendees of major events being targeted in different ways but with the same overall objective; to steal from people who have booked a property in good faith."

"The criminals operate anonymously, advertising on the internet to lure in people in with victims losing thousands of pounds and being left in difficult and distressing positions. The NFIB urges anyone renting a property on the internet to carry out extensive checks and if they have any doubt to not take the risk."

Fraudsters also exploit the trust some people place in landlords. 192.com polled 1,500 UK residents asking them who they trusted most when making a transaction. 19% mostly trusted a landlord when making a payment to them. The 18-24 year olds in the survey were the most trustworthy group, with one in five mostly trusting a landlord when handing over cash.[1]

To avoid rental fraud 192.com has the following advice:

  • Use land registry and edited electoral roll listings to check the property exists, and see who lives there.
  • Verify the owner. Title deeds can be bought online from the Land Registry for £4.
  • Find out if somebody is already living at the property. Residential listings on 192.com will detail co-habitees, both past and present.
  • Get a bird's eye view: do the images of the property match those on the advert? Bing maps and aerial photography can help you find out.
  • Check the individual the selling you the accommodation. Is the person who they say they are? Access 300 million UK edited electoral roll records on 192.com to match a name with an address.

Laurence Hicks from the holiday lettings company CLC leisure says: "We are hearing a lot of nightmare stories about unsuspecting holidaymakers who have booked rental accommodation, paid their airfare and arrived at the address, only to find that it is occupied by the owner and has never been available for rent."

"Visitors to the UK should be especially careful about bogus holiday accommodation in London leading up to and during the Olympics."

Mr Hicks urges consumers to book via a reputable agent or operator offering ABTA and ATOL protection, and that the person or company letting the property should be thoroughly vetted, ideally with verifiable bank references.

To further protect you from rental fraud, Action Fraud has the following advice:

  • Do not send money to anyone advertising rental 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.

Dominic Blackburn, product director of 192.com says: "As we look forward to the Olympics, London will be a honey pot for visitors, and we urge them to approach the holiday rental market with caution. Follow your better instincts and take control of your ID check."

Sources

  1. [1] 192.com survey conducted by One Poll, nationally representative online poll of 1,500 between July 23 and July 28 2010. Results were broken down by age and region.

Action Fraud: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

About 192.com

192.com is the UK's most awarded online directory, helping find people, businesses and places for 10 million users a month. On 192.com, users can search over 700 million records including free directory enquiries, edited electoral roll information, local business listings, interactive mapping, aerial photography and property reports.

For more information contact the 192.com Press Office. Phone: 02079092151