For Sale or Rent
We all want to live in a nice flat or house in a nice road, even if just temporarily. The bad guys obviously know this and reel in their victims with ease. There are a number of methods they use ranging from a simple photograph on social media right through to operating through online estate agents. Here are a couple of examples;
Zara is very concerned about her daughter Lucretia moving to London to go to university; she can live with the excess of drink and debauchery, it’s the flea-ridden flats that really concern her. Zara is something of a ‘clean-freak’ and an undiagnosed sufferer from OCD. She scours the online advertisements, inspecting the photographs and discounting anything she would not feel comfortable in living in herself, in reality that means the vast majority of them.
She finds one advert particularly interesting, it reads ‘ Private double bedroom in family house. This was my daughters room until she left home so is fresh and clean. Access to kitchen and communal areas and laundry facilities available. Rent is £500 PCM with £1000 deposit. Minimum term is 6 months. Large south-facing garden with additional storage available if required. Contact Edmund on XXXXX XXXXXX’
Zara likes the idea that this is a family home and it previously belonged to the daughter of the landlord, so it should be free from fleas, rodents, hidden cameras etc. Her daughter only knows how to use a microwave so the kitchen will be of no great interest, however, the sunny garden will allow her to top up her tan. Zara is also something of a snob and the fact that the landlord is called ‘Edmund’ suggests to her that he is some minor aristocracy, or at the very least a professional person.
She rings Edmund and is not disappointed by his cut-glass accent. He assures her that the room is every bit as good as the photographs suggest and that he expects very high standards of behaviour from his ‘guests’. This convinces Zara that she has found the perfect room for Lucretia. Edmund politely advises Zara that unfortunately, he has given another caller first refusal on the room, but lets it slip that the father didn’t sound as if he was ‘their sort of person’ Zara jumps on this comment and asks ‘What if I paid you the £1,000 deposit and the six months rent up front now. That’s £4,000 in total and I can transfer it within the next hour?’
Edmund feigns indecision and after a respectably long pause answers, ‘Well to be perfectly honest, I think Lucretia would be a better fit with my family in any case, so providing you get the money to me as agreed I will tell him the room is no longer available’ Zara can’t get to her computer fast enough to transfer the funds. Six weeks later, Lucretia turns up outside the address in mummy’s Chelsea Tractor packed to the gunwales with the essentials for the next 6 months. The chap who answers the door is bemused, he has never heard of Edmund and he has no knowledge of any letting agreement. And Edmund sounded so nice……………..
Holiday lets are another area with rich pickings. The fraudster finds a nice house in an area popular with holidaymakers through a legitimate lettings agency. Those that allow you to book particularly short periods are best in this case. He books two days at the end of the month and pays the fee upfront as required. He then copies the photographs and advertises the same property to let on a long-term basis, but significantly undercuts the market rate. He also advertises online as providing short-term holiday lets, thus appealing to a huge number of potential visitors, or as the police prefer to call them, ‘victims’
Timing is everything; he uses a burner mobile and free email address to coordinate responses to his adverts and books in viewings on a very professional looking clipboard. On the day of his own booking, in his (false) name, he collects the keys from a neighbour and lets himself in. He does a little rearranging of the furniture and plumps up a few cushions to make the place look more like a home. He walks around the place so he can sound as if he really is the owner; it doesn’t look good if he doesn’t know which door leads to the toilet! Viewings are allocated 30 minute slots to give him enough time to show the property and talk complete rubbish.
The first potential tenants are a young couple who want to book the house for a fortnight for their first holiday together. They have found the property online and our guy explains over the phone that if they book it through the agent it will cost them £1500 for 2 weeks, whereas booking direct through him will only cost £1,000. He tells them he despises the agents for earning so much money while he does all the hard work. He suggests that the couple can spend the additional £500 on making it a holiday to remember. It will be, but for all the wrong reasons.
The next viewing is a retired couple in their late 60’s. They have worked hard all their lives and have decided that the sea air is more conducive to good health but don’t want to give up their flat in Central London. Their plan is to spend Summer on the coast and Winter in the city. Money is not a problem and the guy boasts of being a bit of a ‘wheeler dealer’. The potential tenants arrive in a big Mercedes and after viewing immediately asks if our guy would be willing to come to an arrangement where they would rent the property from May to October for the next three years. Our guy agrees if they can bypass the agent and deal directly with each other. A discounted rate is agreed upon and the first 6 months rental totalling £10,000 is transferred the same day. Our guy promises to meet the couple outside the address on the morning of 1 May and hand over the keys. He promises that everything will be spick and span with a bottle of bubbly in the fridge.
On 1 May the couple wait outside the property and wait. After 10 minutes the knock on the door in the event that our guy is already inside. A neighbour politely asks if she can help. After listening patiently, she invites them into her house for a cup of tea before dropping the bombshell that they are the third couple this week who she has found waiting outside the property. All describe the same guy, a story that varies slightly from couple to couple and the amount they had paid.
Meanwhile, ten miles up the coast, a lovely young couple are being shown around a luxury flat overlooking the bay………..