The RCIPS Financial Crime Investigation Unit (FCIU) is reminding the public to be wary of fraudulent apartment rental advertisements on online websites such as EcayTrade.com.
This notice is being recirculated due to recent reports of fraudulent apartment rental advertisements being posted. Although such fraudulent advertisements are quickly removed from the websites hosting them, they are often reposted later on. As such, the FCIU is reminding the public to bear in mind the following warnings and information when looking for any such rental property online.
The fraudulent adverts usually include photographs, details of the apartment and an email address for the listing agent. Once the initial contact is established, the criminal sends additional information with a seemingly logical explanation for the lucrative rental package. This includes all utilities, cable, gas and internet connection/Wi-Fi.
The victim is informed that there is no local representative and that the property is managed by Airbnb who handles the entire rental process. Once interest is established the listing agent sends step by step procedures on how to reserve the apartment via Airbnb.
Further information is provided and the victim is requested to wire transfer funds to a third-party bank account outside of the jurisdiction.
In other cases, a fraudulent Airbnb link will be sent to the victim, which directs them to a payment page that appears to be a legitimate Airbnb page, but is in fact not affiliated with Airbnb at all.
After the transaction goes through, the criminal typically removes the online ad, ignores all follow-up emails and the victim is never able to recoup their losses.
Suggestions for Protection
The FCIU recommends that residents interested in purchasing items or renting property online ensure they are purchasing/renting from a reputable source by verifying the legitimacy of the seller/listing agent and their actual possession of the property/merchandise.
• When it comes to making any purchases or securing a rental property, be cautious of advertisements of rental property or items advertised well below market value. Remember, if the deal appears too good to be true, it probably is.
• Use the internet to research the advertisement and seller’s name, email addresses and other unique identifiers.
• If practicable, be sure to arrange to physically inspect or view the apartment before conducting any transactions. Be wary of any persons who refuse to accommodate this.
• Likewise, insist on meeting with the individual or their designate in person, or via other means such as video chat, before conducting any transaction.
If you are suspicious or unsure about the advertisement, immediately contact or file a complaint with the police or FCIU.
If funds are transferred to a fraudulent account, it is important to act quickly. Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering the scam. Request that your financial institution contact the corresponding financial institution where the transfer was sent. Complainants are also encouraged to keep all original documentations, emails, faxes and logs of communications.
Because scams and fraudulent websites can emerge and change very quickly, individuals are encouraged to report any suspicions of possible internet scams by filing a complaint with the police or FCIU regardless of whether a loss is suffered. Any such reports can be made to your local police station, or directly to the FCIU at RCIPS.FCU@rcips.ky.