There is a four bedroom home with a sprawling view and modern finishes being advertised for rent in NSW, but hopeful applicants have been instructed not to apply.
While the home, in Forresters Beach on the state’s Central Coast, seems to present a perfect opportunity to families struggling in the rental crisis, something sinister is looming beneath the surface.
The property’s advertisement on Facebook Marketplace, complete with professional photos and a legitimate summary of features, has all been revealed to be a sham.
What appeared to be a fake Facebook account was behind the ad, seemingly in a ploy to request a fake deposit from applicants desperate for somewhere to live in the rental crisis.
The home was recently on the market for rent with agency The Leasing Network but suitable tenants had been approved and were set to move in any day.
“This property is listed for lease on Central Coast Marketplace and this is not the owner! We have the property on our web page and it has an approved applicant,” an agent wrote in a post.
The fake ad listed the property for rent at $550 a week and asked for a bond payment of $2500, while the property’s real listing however advertised the home for $650 per week with a bond of $2,600.
The fake advert had taken pieces of information from the real one, omitting some of its dot points completely.
The shameful tactic has unfortunately not been uncommon throughout the housing crisis, with dozens of people across NSW fallen victim to the scam in 2023.
One case involved nine people who collectively lost more than $10,000 when they handed over payments for properties that were not available.
In that case, the scammer used a foreign messaging service called Kakao to advertise the property, which was ultimately discovered to be an Airbnb.
They scammed the hopeful tenants out of a bond and two weeks rent.
In Victoria, victims experienced a reported loss of $125,819 in 2023 alone from rental scams, with the true loss likely to be “much higher”.
Scammers were found to have been using trusted and well-known property websites to prey on unsuspecting victims, luring them in with the promise of affordable rent and quality accommodation.
Usually the victim would be coerced to make payments quickly to secure the property, with it being common practice to pay a bond and the first month’s rent upfront.
False advertisements can look very convincing, often posted with photos and videos of the home, as well as real addresses and sometimes even fake scans of documents.
Cybercrime squad Detective Sergeant John Cheyne said matters of this nature were often underreported for a variety of reasons, including “fear or embarrassment and sometimes feeling unsure if an offence has occurred”.
“People and families who are simply looking for a place to call home or the vulnerable in our community are being preyed upon and it can have devastating consequences for them,” Sergeant Cheyne said.
“If something seems too good to be true and the rent seems much too low for the area, it probably is.”
Police said in most instances the scammers were located within Australia and were not known to the victims. Prospective renters have been urged to take extra precautions in their search for a home.
“(You should never be) signing a lease agreement or making payment before having viewed a property,” a police spokesperson said.
“Offenders will often create a sense of urgency by saying the property won’t be available for much longer, or that they have other people waiting to put down a deposit.
“You should always inspect a property in person or by sending someone on your behalf.”