How to sniff out holiday home scams

Fin24
2014-10-29 14:22
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Johannesburg - Every holiday season some holiday makers are left homeless after discovering their perfect piece of holiday paradise was simply a scam, according to Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN credit bureau.  

"The preferred con to trick you out of your holiday home is perpetrated by the scam artist posing as the estate agent or landlord," warns Dickens

“If you are renting through a property portal it is common that the property will be rented property-unseen and without meeting the estate agent or landlord face-to-face. This is the most high risk scenario, so authenticating the contractibility of the landlord or estate agent is important."

She says consumers must be wary of the landlord or agent who only communicates with them electronically.

“Other factors that need to be considered which might suggest you are dealing with a scam artist are if the potential estate agent or landlord is only prepared to communicate with you via a cell phone number and not a landline number or if the email address you are communicating on is a free email address and not a business email address,” says Dickens.

Tips for protection  

Dickens explains there are a number of procedures to follow that will protect you against a potential scam.

“If you are dealing with an estate agent, you should ensure that they are registered with the Estate Agents Affairs Board and this can be done by simply logging on to www.eeab.org.za, to confirm if the estate agent in question has a valid fidelity fund certificate for the current year," says Dickens.

It is also a good idea to do a search on the estate agent's own website to see if they are in fact active within the area.  

“I would also recommend doing a search of the actual property on Google Earth to validate the actual property that you are about to rent corresponds with the pictures you have seen on the website," suggests Dickens.

Another preventative measure is to ask the estate agent or landlord to provide additional pictures of the property which were not in the original advert.

"Doing a Google search on the landlord or estate agent that you are in contact with might also yield useful information about any previous cases having been reported in the media,” advises Dickens.  

She says most banks will allow you to perform an online account verification on the account name and number.

“I strongly suggest approaching the bank to do an account verification before making payment to ensure the person you are about to release money to, is in actual fact the person you have been dealing with,” says Dickens.

Lastly, she suggests doing a deed search on the property the government’s www.deeds.gov.za website if it really seems to be high risk.

- Fin24

* Do you know of holiday home scams? Has it ever happened to you or someone you know? Share your story.

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