The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has received several reports of rental fraud whereby empty premises are being targeted and the locks are being changed for the purpose of adding legitimacy to a rental fraud.
The suspect(s) will find and enter an empty property for the purposes of changing the locks and then advertising it on online platforms, such as Gumtree, as a rental property. The suspect(s) then invite interested victims to visit the property for a viewing. Those victims which are interested in renting the property are then requested to pay a deposit and/or rent upfront in cash.
In some instances the victims have moved into the property only to be evicted by the real property owner, or have found that the locks have been changed, once they have received the keys. There are several instances where this fraud has left victims homeless.
If you or someone you know currently has an empty property, encourage them to visit the property regularly to make sure that the locks have not been changed and no damage has occurred.
Avoid communication with only email or mobile phone, request to see the property owner and ask for valid ID. You can also check ownership of the property using the Land Registry.
The landlord will carry out their own due diligence and should request all of your details, references and proof that you will be able to afford to rent the property. Make sure that these checks are completed prior to paying a deposit / rent.
Always view the property and the tenancy agreement before paying any upfront costs.
If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by this fraud or any other scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk