The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch has received 560 reports of rental scams so far this year, a 56% increase as scammers target people looking for a rental property during COVID by offering fake properties.

“Scammers are offering reduced rents due to COVID-19 and using the government restrictions to trick people into transferring money without inspecting the property,” ACCC Deputy Commissioner Delia Rickard said.

According to the ACCC, the scammers will post ads on real estate listing websites or target people who have posted on social media platforms that they are looking for a room to rent.

After the victim responds, the scammer requests an upfront deposit be paid to secure the property or phish for personal information through a 'tenant application form' and promise to hand over the keys once the payment or information has been provided.

The scammer may even come up with excuses for further payments to be made, before cutting off contact. 

Some scammers are even impersonating real estate agents and organising fake inspections. The victim only realises they have been scammed when they arrive to the 'inspection' to discover the property doesn't exist or is currently occupied.

Buying a home or looking to refinance? The table below features home loans with some of the lowest variable interest rates on the market for owner-occupiers.

Lender

VariableMore details
Online ExclusiveUp To $4K Cashback
  • Immediate cashback upon settlement
  • $2,000 for loans up to $700,000
  • $4,000 for loans over $700,000
Online ExclusiveUp To $4K Cashback

loans.com.au – Variable Basic Cashback Home Loan (Principal and Interest) (LVR < 70%)

  • Immediate cashback upon settlement
  • $2,000 for loans up to $700,000
  • $4,000 for loans over $700,000
VariableMore details
Refinance OnlyApply In Minutes
  • No application or ongoing fees. Annual rate discount
  • Unlimited redraws & additional repayments. LVR <80%
  • A low-rate variable home loan from a 100% online lender. Backed by the Commonwealth Bank.
Refinance OnlyApply In Minutes

Unloan – Variable Rate Home Loan – Refinance Only

  • No application or ongoing fees. Annual rate discount
  • Unlimited redraws & additional repayments. LVR <80%
  • A low-rate variable home loan from a 100% online lender. Backed by the Commonwealth Bank.
VariableMore details
Unlimited Redraws
  • No annual fees - None!
  • Get fast pre-approval
  • Unlimited additional repayments free of charge
  • Redraw freely - Access your additional payments when you need them
  • Home loan specialists available today
Unlimited Redraws

ubank – Neat Variable Home Loan (Principal and Interest) (LVR < 60%)

  • No annual fees - None!
  • Get fast pre-approval
  • Unlimited additional repayments free of charge
  • Redraw freely - Access your additional payments when you need them
  • Home loan specialists available today
VariableMore details
Unlimited RedrawsApply In Minutes
  • Low Deposit (<95% LVR) with No LMI required
  • Unlimited Redraw and additional repayments
  • No Application or ongoing fees
Unlimited RedrawsApply In Minutes

Sucasa – Ultra Low Rate (Variable) - <95% LVR - No LMI (New Purchases)

  • Low Deposit (<95% LVR) with No LMI required
  • Unlimited Redraw and additional repayments
  • No Application or ongoing fees
Important Information and Comparison Rate Warning

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, fixed, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. However, the ‘Compare Home Loans’ table allows for calculations to be made on variables as selected and input by the user. Some products will be marked as promoted, featured or sponsored and may appear prominently in the tables regardless of their attributes. All products will list the LVR with the product and rate which are clearly published on the product provider’s website. Monthly repayments, once the base criteria are altered by the user, will be based on the selected products’ advertised rates and determined by the loan amount, repayment type, loan term and LVR as input by the user/you. *The Comparison rate is based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. Warning: this comparison rate is true only for this example and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate. Rates correct as of February 20, 2024. View disclaimer.

According to the ACCC, Australians aged between 25-34 reported the most rental scams in 2020, with most scams in NSW, VIC and the ACT.

A common rental scam currently making its way around Canberra involves a scammer impersonating a doctor living in Sweden who only offers virtual inspections before requesting bond money.

How to avoid being scammed

Ms Rickard said renters should always view a property in person before handing over bond money and ensure they're dealing with a licensed real estate agent.

“In areas of Victoria under COVID-19 level 4 restrictions this is not possible, but you can help protect yourself by doing an online search to confirm the property exists and, if dealing with an agent, checking that the agent you are dealing with is licensed," Rickard said.

“Scammers often rely on email communications to avoid identification, do an independent search for a phone number and speak to the property manager over the phone or arrange a meeting in person.

“Before making any payments ensure you are dealing with the licensed agent, if a scammer has your details they may impersonate a real estate agent and attempt to ‘follow-up’ requesting money after an inspection.”

With so many Australians under financial stress due to the COVID-19 crisis, falling victim to a rental scam can be financially crippling.

“Once a scammer has your personal information you are at risk of being targeted by further scams or identity theft," Rickard said.

“Many people are also experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic and the financial impact of falling victim to a scam can be devastating."





Ready, Set, Buy!


Learn everything you need to know about buying property – from choosing the right property and home loan, to the purchasing process, tips to save money and more!

With bonus Q&A sheet and Crossword!

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy