- Over $300,000 has been lost, up 76% from the previous year.
- 560 reports were made to government body Scamwatch during the pandemic.
- Scams included fake rental properties posted on real estate websites.
- Most scams reported by location were on the New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, and Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
- Most scams reported by age group were 25-34.
Australian Competition & Consumer Commission run programme, Scamwatch, reported significant increases in suspicious activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ACCC Deputy Commissioner Delia Rickard said many victims were enticed by reduced rents whilst in lockdown and were tricked into buying before trying:
“Scammers are offering reduced rents due to COVID-19 and using the government restrictions to trick people into transferring money without inspecting the property,”
Scamwatch says tactics used included:
- Taking advantage of people in lockdown,
- Targeting social media where people expressed interest in renting,
- Request upfront deposits inspection,
- Information phishing through fake tenant application forms.
It was also reported in some instances:
“Some scammers will even impersonate real estate agents and organise fake inspections, victims arrive to discover the property doesn’t exist or is currently occupied.”
Ms Rickard said personal information was commonplace, with loss of identity an issue when sending scammers documents like passports and bank statements.
Scamwatch also reported that most scam reports came from people aged 25-34, the most by location NSW, Victoria, and ACT.
Ms Rickard recommended to exercise caution and that:
“… 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.
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,”
For more information on scams, or to report a scam, go to the Scamwatch website.