Beware Easter holiday rental scams

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04 Mar 2013

With Easter approaching, South Africans need to be aware of scammers trying to make money from people looking for holiday accommodation.   

If the letting agent asks you to deposit money into a bank account that is not a recognisable company bank account – don’t.

In January, media reports told the story of how people, who had rented accommodation for their year-end holiday, had been scammed. When they arrived, either the address of the property wasn’t what they had been let or other people were occupying the accommodation and the families had nowhere to stay and could not reach the agent, nor get their money refunded. 

John Roberts, CEO of the Just Property Group, says people are bombarded with get rich quick schemes - those notifications about your cellphone number having been selected to win thousands of Rands or from rich foreigners asking for assistance to bring their funds into the country. He says this is done all in an effort to get hold of your banking details so that they can help themselves to your money. 

“And then you get the more resourceful ones like your fly by night letting agent. Their sole purpose is to lure you into paying a deposit on a property they have no mandate to let and that’s the last you will hear of them.” 

What do you do to ensure the property you have rented has been legitimately let to you and that the property meets the description you have been given? 

Roberts shares a few tips on how they operate and how to identify a scammer… 

Firstly, use a reputable letting company. Local tourist junction boards will carry information about reputable companies.   

Roberts says if an advert has only the person’s name and cell number, be wary. He says all reputable companies have websites with landline numbers, so if you’re in doubt, phone the landline to check if the agent works at the company.  

The lease agreement and all other documentation should be on branded stationary, Roberts says. 

He advises holidaymakers to sign the lease before paying a deposit. 

“If the letting agent asks you to deposit money into a bank account that is not a recognisable company bank account – don’t. The scam agent will try to pressurise you into making a deposit by telling you that there is a waiting list and that other tenants want the property.” He says if you pay the deposit into the name of an individual that’s the last you will hear of this person. 

The bank account name and number should match that of the letting company and ask the agency to provide you with proof that your deposit is kept in an interest bearing account. 

Follow these simple steps and enjoy your Easter holidays. 

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