Gumtree, the dedicated website for free classifieds adverts in the UK, is urging landlords and tenants to follow its ‘safety advice’ when listing properties to let on its platform, after the latest fraudulent rental scam left a young couple £800 out of pocket.
The pair, from Bridgend, south Wales, agreed to pay £300 in advance to a man they believed was the landlord, after being asked to prove that they can afford the rent.
After finding what they thought was a suitable property on Gumtree, Amy Da Cruz, 22, and Matthew Morgan, 26, started talking to who they believed was the landlord via WhatsApp.
The fraudulent landlord who posted the advert asked for a further £500 on the day of the viewing, insisting that the money would act as the first month's rent.
The couple agreed to transfer the funds in good faith, even though they had not yet viewed the property.
When they eventually went to the house, they found that it was occupied and owned by a 99-year-old man who had no idea his home had been placed on the market to let.
Fraudulent adverts most often appear on free advertising websites as there is no cost to advertise the fake property, but Gumtree is hoping to reverse that trend.
A Gumtree spokesperson said: “We take fraud very seriously and are sorry to hear of this incident. We remain totally committed to tackling scams and educating people about how to avoid them.
“We work closely with relevant authorities and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA). All Property ads on our site comply with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) requirements and government regulations for property advertising, a full list of those rules can be found on our website.
“Whilst such adverts are uncommon, we do list prominent safety advice for landlords and prospective tenants alike, and recommend meeting in person and carrying out thorough checks, ensuring that a tenancy agreement is in place before handing over a deposit. We encourage anyone that thinks they may have come across a scam to report it to us immediately through the ‘Report this ad’ button. Our dedicated safety team can investigate and take action such as blocking the offender from the site and aiding any police investigation.”