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Users are wising up to ‘dangers of online rental fraud’

With July being Fraud Awareness Month, the subject of online rental fraud has been brought into the spotlight by Nick Marr, co-founder of TheHouseShop.com, who is keen to plug his firm’s property ownership verification system for all private advertisers.

With some prospective tenants seeking out private landlords online and cutting out the traditional letting agent, scammers and fake landlords have been making money by targeting renters looking to secure a property, and that is where TheHouseShop’s new online platform is designed to help.

Marr reports that a growing number of scammers are posing as landlords to post fake adverts on classified ad sites and other free-to-list platforms, before attempting to convince potential tenants to transfer a holding deposit or up-front fee, which can amount to more than £1,000, in order to secure the property without ever having seen it in person.

New YouGov research from TheHouseShop.com shows that consumers are becoming more aware of the dangers and are now demanding better security checks on the platforms they use to search for property online.

Recent estimates from Shelter show that as many as 250,000 renters have fallen victim to rental fraud and scams over the past five years – with almost 50,000 victims in the past 12 months alone.

It is estimated that bogus landlords are making a whopping £775m through rental scams, with an average cost per victim of roughly £2,400, showing the scale of the damage caused by scammers.

Many landlords use DIY online platforms to find tenants for their properties, but some of the classified ad sites commonly used by such landlords offer little-to-no security checks to verify the authenticity of adverts, leaving them exposed to potential scammers. 

In an attempt to attract the growing number of renters looking for a safe and secure platform to find and communicate with private landlords, TheHouseShop is now offering a property ownership verification system for all private advertisers, in an effort to stamp out bogus landlords trying to run scams on the site.

Nick Marr, Co-founder of TheHouseShop.com, said: “It’s been almost a year since we launched our mandatory Land Registry ownership verification check and we have now built up thousands of verified private rental listings on the site. We are finding that more and more of our traffic is coming from tenants using Google to track down private landlords, and being able to provide a safe and secure platform for renters to engage with landlords directly has been a huge achievement for us.

“Our recent YouGov research has proved that home-hunters are becoming increasingly concerned about online safety and security, and these concerns are impacting which sites they choose to use.

“With the majority of Brits saying they would be either “more likely” or “much more likely” to use a site that verifies advertisers’ identities and confirms property ownership, it is clear that consumers are wising up to the dangers of online rental fraud and demanding tougher security checks on the platforms they use to search for property.”

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