National charity Citizens Advice is warning people to take extra care when searching for rooms or property online, if they are asked to prove funds via money transfer prior to viewing.
The charity’s network of Citizens Advice Bureaux are reporting cases of people falling victim to a scam where landlords – who often state they live out of the country – ask prospective tenants to make a ‘secure’ money transfer to a trusted person – such as a relative.
They are then asked to send a copy of the receipt to the landlord to prove they have sufficient money for deposit and rent before they are shown the property.
The would-be tenants are reassured that no-one else can access the money, but find when they go to collect it that the money has already been withdrawn and the room or property doesn’t exist.
Susan Marks, affairs policy officer at the Citizens Advice, says: “Money transfer, used in any situation other than to send money to someone you know, is not secure. It should never be used as a way of proving funds or as a method of payment to someone you don’t know – sharing your money transfer number or copy of your transfer receipt is like handing over your PIN number to a stranger. It’s not the same as transferring money from one bank to another, and isn’t covered by the same safeguards.
“Unfortunately the very nature of what makes money transfer appealing – that its quick and easy and that money can be sent to numerous outlets in the UK or abroad – is also the thing that leaves it open to exploitation by fraudsters.”