Wary of rental scams, couple negotiate with 'fishy' woman -- but get cheated anyway

The New Paper
Nov 28, 2023

She said she was helping her boyfriend’s parents to rent out a room and if he was interested, she would help him buy furniture.

But when it became difficult to contact her, the would-be tenant confronted her boyfriend instead.

He was shocked to be told they had broken up and the latter did not know she was using his home to cheat people.

The victim, Mr Hong, told Shin Min Daily News how it all started when he went on Facebook to post that he and his girlfriend were looking for a room to rent.

The couple’s current lease was almost up, the 30-year-old said, and a woman named “Becca” responded to his post. 

She told him she was getting married soon, and was helping her boyfriend’s parents find tenants for a room in their four-room unit in Sengkang.

The next day, the couple viewed the flat and everything went well, said Mr Hong. When they told her they were interested in the room, Becca allegedly told him to fork out $950, or one month’s worth of rent, as deposit.

As they had heard of others falling prey to rental scams, they were reluctant to hand over the money, he said. “We negotiated to give half of the deposit first, and then transfer the other half after the contract was signed.”

The rental price was “average and not so low as to make one wary”, said Mr Hong.

And although he did think it was fishy that Becca said she could only be contacted via WhatsApp, the couple went ahead with the deal.

But just as he was about to move into the room, Becca started making excuses. Mr Hong said he contacted her on Nov 22 and threatened to make a police report against her.

He then went to the rental unit but when Becca did not answer the door, he called the police. 

Desperate, Mr Hong also contacted Becca’s boyfriend to ask him why he allowed her to use his parents’ home in her scam.

But the latter said he had broken up with Becca and alleged that he had made a police report as well as he was also a victim. 

Mr Hong said Becca contacted him after he reported her to the police and claimed to be in Johor Bahru. She promised she would explain everything to him when she was back in Singapore.

But only Becca’s mother turned up to meet him. And she claimed she had no knowledge of what her daughter had done.

Mr Hong told Shin Min that he later found out there were at least seven other victims like him. 

One of them, Ms Xie, 19, told the Chinese evening daily that a person named “Rebecca” had messaged her after she posted about her search for a room to rent on social media platform Xiaohongshu on May 26.

Similar to Mr Hong’s claims, Rebecca delayed Ms Xie’s move with various excuses. She allegedly told Ms Xie she needed the latter's work permit and identification card after the $650 deposit had been paid.

On two occasions, Ms Xie had to find alternative places to stay after Rebecca claimed there were problems with the flat’s electricity supply. 

Said Ms Xie: “She also borrowed $200 from me after saying she needed it urgently. I’d given her $2,600 before I even moved in.”

She added that Rebecca’s mother is negotiating to repay the other victims in instalments.

Police are investigating.

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