Protect yourself from rental scams
Accommodation scams unfortunately are common. So it's important you're careful and have done your due diligence when searching for accommodation.
How scammers work
One common scam involves the scammer placing an advertisement for a vacant property or a room to rent on an online housing database.
Once you respond to this advertisement, the scammer will then typically ask you to deposit money into a non-Australian bank account or to mail a cheque or money order to a non-Australian address. In exchange for this up-front payment, the scammer assures you that keys to the property will be mailed to you shortly.
The keys will never arrive and you will have lost your money.
Warning signs to watch out for
Warning signs that advertised accommodation may be a scam, include:
- offers which seem too good to be true (e.g. promises of cheap rent)
- ongoing excuses as to why the property cannot be inspected
- requiring an up-front fee via money transfer
- the landlord claims to live overseas
How to avoid being scammed
To avoid being scammed, make sure you:
- Inspect properties and rooms in person – no matter how authentic an advertisement looks, the photos and details could have been copied from elsewhere
- Never transfer money or provide personal details (passports, bank details, date of birth etc.) to someone you haven't met face-to-face, or for a property application you haven't inspected.
- Search online for the address of the property, the name of the person offering the property, and their email address – many scams can be identified this way
- Get the landlord’s complete and accurate contact details, and don't rely on testimonials provided through the advertiser
- Use reputable websites with clear ratings, consumer reviews and warnings about scams.
Also take the how scam savvy are you? quiz from Consumer Affairs Victoria, which will test how well you recognise possible scams.
Think you're being scammed?
If you're suspicious that the accommodation you're looking at is a scam, report it to SCAMWatch at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
If you want to talk to someone, you can also contact Housing Support [link to contact page] before signing a suspicious lease or sending money to a suspect bank account.