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At least 305 victims have fallen prey since January to scams involving scammers impersonating legitimate property agents and pressuring victims for payment to secure the rental of a unit before viewing the property, losing at least $1.7 million.
The police said in a statement that such rental scams are re-emerging.
Victims would typically respond to sponsored online property rental listings on various advertisement sites, including Facebook and Carousell, and initiate a conversation with the scammer via WhatsApp using the contact numbers listed in the fake online listing.
During the conversation, the scammer would impersonate a registered property agent and convince the victim of his credentials by sending a picture of a legitimate property agent's Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) registration number, business card and pictures or virtual tours or videos of the property to be leased.
When victims ask if they could view the property, the scammers would pretend that there was intense demand for the property and would pressure the victims to quickly make rental deposits to a local bank account to secure the rental.
In some cases, the scammers would request the victim's personal details to prepare the lease agreement and would send a copy of a lease agreement with the name and NRIC of the purported owner of the unit to the victims for their signature before asking for the rental deposits.
After paying these deposits, victims would discover that they had been scammed when the scammer ceased contact with them or when they reach out to legitimate property agents through other means.
The police advise members of the public to adopt the following precautionary measures:
ADD - ScamShield App and set security features (e.g., enable two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor authentication for banks, social media, Singpass accounts; set transaction limits on Internet banking transactions, including PayNow)
CHECK - for scam signs through official sources. Verify the legitimacy of a property listing via the following means:
Check whether the phone number in the property listing belongs to a property agent registered with CEA. To do so, members of the public should key in the advertised phone number on the CEA Public Register to perform a search. If the search does not lead to a property agent’s profile page, it means that the phone number is not registered with CEA and is a likely scam, even if the property agent’s name and registration number has been verified against the CEA Public Register.
Contact the agent’s property agency to verify the authenticity of the listing.
TELL - authorities, family, and friends about scams. Report the fraudulent pages to the online platforms (for e.g. Facebook, Carousell, etc) on which you found the listing.
Members of the public may visit www.scamalert.sg or call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 for more information on scams.
Anyone with information about scams may contact the police at 1800-255-0000 or submit information online to www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.