Beware of fraudsters!

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

It has recently come to light that a few fraudsters have posted fake listings on Private Property. While these listings came to our attention before too much damage could be done, some potential property buyers and renters were, unfortunately, adversely affected.

Even though we have systems in place to try to prevent this from happening, it’s a fact that the criminal mind will find a way around just about any obstacle. In our case, we have purposefully made it easy to list for-sale and to-rent properties on the site … and it’s unfortunate that our effort to make our offering accessible has been hijacked for a less-than-honest purpose.

As an example, a potential renter received the following response to her enquiry about viewing a listed property:

“I will need your full name and address in order to arrange the delivery of the contract and the keys. After the payment will be confirmed to MoneyBookers the agent will deliver the contract and set up a viewing! Using the Moneybookers escrow blocked account, the viewing procedure involves three parties: me as the owner, you as the prospective tenant and Moneybookers as a licensed third party responsible for good development of the transaction. The Moneybookers Escrow Blocked account is just like the blocked account where you pay the damage deposit when you rent an apartment except that instead of a bank we will use Moneybookers. Of course, nobody can touch this money until you receive the keys.”

Fortunately, she realised that payment of a deposit generally follows the signing of a lease rather than preceding it, and did not make any financial transaction.

Other potentially risky cases were picked up via the fact that the listing prices were ridiculous – either way high or unrealistically low – leading us to believe that the listers knew nothing about property, and intended to use the contacts gained via our site for other purposes.

The listings have been removed, and the listers barred from accessing the site.

Always bear in mind that any classified outlet (online or print) holds potential risks, and keep your wits about you. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a so-called agent sounds dodgy, he very well could be. If something doesn’t “feel” right, trust your instincts.

Should you, at any stage, feel that you may be vulnerable, please don’t hesitate to contact our national call centre on 087 375 1000, and we’ll investigate the listing for you.

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