Private Property, an online tool to find property to buy, rent or sell, has released a slew of articles warning against cybercrime and how it affects the property hunter.
Cybercrime has become more prevalent in recent years, as it is difficult to trace leads with no physical trails. South African law enforcement operatives are also not well-equipped enough to deal with cybercrime.
Last year, online scam artists in Cape Town started a new trend. They copied genuine rental adverts online. lowered the rental price and reposed them on other sites like Gumtree and OLX.
A businessman from Gordon’s Bay, Greg von Gossler, was shocked to find out that his home has been fraudulently advertised on Gumtree. This after a family showed up on his doorstep last year claiming they were ready to move in. The family had been robbed of a R20 000 deposit, and were surprised to find out that the property had not been legitimately advertised.
Around the same time, a number of Cape Town’s northern suburbs residents had called to radio station CapeTalk to warn others that online property scam artists were hitting the Cape in a big way.
Gumtree has since began working with police to scrutinise online property adverts for legitimacy, and now inform their users on what they should keep an eye out for when transacting on any classified or social media platform.
In March of 2017, scam artists posing as estate agents, as well as a registered attorney, formed a fraud syndicate in the Delft area, duping would-be buyers into purchasing homes which were not for sale.
Again, the property was advertised on Gumtree, and a 25-year-old woman, who had raised a loan in order to pay for the property, lost more than R130 000.
According to Private Property, these are the signs to look out for when buying or renting a property online:
– If you request to view the property and the estate agent refuses or makes up excuses, there is a high chance that the listing may be fake.
– The price of the property is incredibly low.
– The property seller requests that you wire money. When the term “wire money” or another variation of the term comes up in conversation with your seller, red flags should go up and this is a way for the seller to be paid without interference from a lawyer or bank.
– The email address you are communicating with the seller on seems odd. Fraudulent property sellers usually make use of free email servers, and may go by a series of random letters, as this makes the email address much harder to trace.
– Your seller is pushing you to close the deal. The faster the scammer closes the deal, the faster he or she can get money out of you and avoid being caught.
– The seller pushes you to purchase the property without having seen the property.
Use the following tips to avoid being a victim of a property scam:
– If you have found a bargain property online, make sure to contact the estate agency to find out whether the deal is real or not. Avoid calling the number at the bottom of the ad, as this number may lead to a fraudulent office.
– Be wary of agents and landlords who seem too pushy or eager to have you purchase or rent the property they are marketing. A legitimate agent or landlord will always conduct the necessary checks, and will not be too disappointed when you don’t show interest in the property.
– If the estate agent is constantly making up excuses as to why they cannot meet you at the property, this is a sign that they are illegitimate. This often signals that they have no access to the property, and are stalling while they are trying to think of a clever way to get you to pay the deposit without viewing the property.
– Never, ever pay a deposit without viewing a property first.