Pregnant mum ripped off $3000 in shock rental scam
A PREGNANT mother in desperate need of a rental property is "absolutely gutted" after she put her trust in the wrong person and lost more than $3000 for a home that was never actually on the market.
Jessie Bryen is among several Townsville renters who are being ripped off by sophisticated scammers tricking them into handing over cash for properties.
The 22-year-old has been searching for a rental property for about four months, so when she received a reply to a social media call-out for a rental, she thought she'd struck gold.
The advertisement for the Railway Estate home looked legitimate, with the fake agent even sending Ms Bryen what looked like real paperwork for a lease and 'security deposit'.
With the end of her current rental contract looming, Ms Bryen put her trust in the man behind the ad and paid him more than $3000 to supposedly lock in the house.
It wasn't long before the fraudster stopped replying to messages and Ms Bryen realised she'd been scammed.
"He sent through legitimate documents of a lease … he gave me multiple promises of keys," Ms Bryen said.
"I was too trusting … we are devastated."
Ms Bryen had recently sold her car, in need of an upgrade for their growing family, but decided to put some of that money towards the fake rental.
The fake advertisement had been copied off a home that was up for sale through Pimlico real estate agent, Zoe Stankov.
It was not the first time her listings had been targeted, copied and re-sold as fake rentals by scammers who asked tenants to fork out cash to secure the property.
The owner of Daring and Young Property said two of her properties had been copied in the past couple of months, trapping unsuspecting victims who turned up to the home for a 'viewing' to find they had been duped.
"People have paid more than two weeks' rent (for the fake deposit) … they are gutted," Ms Stankov said. "The scammers are pretending they are an agent or a private landlord and the advertisements sound really legitimate."
The latest REIQ Quarterly Rental Vacancies report found that every Queensland region had experienced a drop in vacancies, with 96 per cent of those regions now in the "tight range" of 0-2.5 per cent.
In Townsville, vacancy rates have fallen to their lowest level in more than 10 years, an extremely tight 0.7 per cent.
It's loosened just 0.4 per cent since July.
Ms Stankov said the intense competition made these scams even more serious. "People are desperate for homes and missing out as it is.
"It also being so close to Christmas where people are already strapped for money (makes it worse)."
Scamwatch reported in September that Australians had lost more than $300,000 to rental scams this year, which was a 76 per cent increase compared with the same time last year.
Anyone who suspects they are a victim of a rental scam should act quickly to reduce the risk of financial loss or other damages.
They should contact their bank as soon as possible and, if relevant, contact the platform on which they were scammed to inform it of the circumstances.
Originally published as Pregnant mum ripped off $3000 in shock rental scam