A warning has been issued to renters in the UK as scammers target the likes of Facebook and SpareRoom. 

The consumer advice company Which? has reported that a "perfect storm in the rental market" for fraudsters has been created due to renters flocking back to cities and landlords selling up their properties. 

Many renters have experienced the issue first-hand as they desperately refresh the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla in their search for a new home.

Whether you're currently looking at listings on Gumtree and Facebook or your tenancy is about to end, Which? has collated some scam examples so you know what to look out for.

Basingstoke Gazette: Renters have been warned about scams circulating on the likes of Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and more ( PA)Renters have been warned about scams circulating on the likes of Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and more ( PA) (Image: PA)

SpareRoom scam warning to renters 

Tenants and Landlords often use the rent and flatshare website to advertise available rooms and properties as well as source flatmates and tenants.

Which? reported an example of pressure tactics being used on the platform on a listing that "initially didn't seem suspicious".

The rent was at the lower end of the market but not alarmingly so and the photos of the property were professionally taken. 

However, the Which? reporter noted that they insisted on adding them on WhatsApp and then arranging to rent them the property through Airbnb without a viewing.

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Which? later uncovered the photos from the fraudulent SpareRoom advert on a legitimate estate agent's website.

SpareRoom has shared some guidance to renters on its website over the 'fake Airbnb' scam among others. 

Renters are encouraged to "always check whether the link you’re given is a genuine URL – most websites will have a list of the different links/domains they use," according to SpareRoom.

The rental company added: "Don’t transfer money to a bank account that belongs to someone you didn’t correspond with, and be extra cautious of international payments.

"Contact the original listings website directly (not through the link you received) to check whether the listing or link in question is genuine".

You can see more advice and guidance over potential rental scams via the SpareRoom website.

Facebook Marketplace scam warning issued to renters

Basingstoke Gazette: Action Fraud has shared some advice to help you avoid rental scams ( Canva)Action Fraud has shared some advice to help you avoid rental scams ( Canva) (Image: Canva)

Which? also shared the story of Sean (not his real name) who was selling his home with Purplebricks when a person turned up to his house to view the 'rental' property.

These 'alarm bells' led to his son discovering a listing for his home on Facebook Marketplace.

The advert featured images from the Purplebricks listing as well as shockingly, his full address.

Facebook has since removed the fraudulent listing, Which? reported. 

Speaking to Which?, Facebook said that it encourages users to report suspicious activity to the platform and platform and that it heavily invests in technology to remove scammers.

Action Fraud's tips to protect yourself from rental fraud

If you are trying to navigate the rental market, Action Fraud has shared some advice on how to protect yourself:

  • Visit the property before you pay – Watch out for adverts with no photos, or where multiple adverts have the same photos as they could be fake. Do not pay any money until you or a reliable contact has visited the property with an agent or the landlord. 
  • Be cautious about how you send money – The safest way to make a payment is by a credit card in person at the letting agent’s office. Be sceptical if you’re asked to transfer money via a money transfer service.
  • Don’t be pressured into transferring large sums of money – Under no circumstances would a genuine bank or another trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot.
  • Check that the owner is on an approved accommodation list – If you are a student, you should go to your student union or accommodation office to see if they have an approved housing list. You should also look for accreditation membership such as National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).

If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.