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News: Scam using Facebook Marketplace sees tenants lose thousands

Thu, 18 Nov 21

A scam in one city has reportedly seen scores of individuals robbed of thousands of pounds as short lets have been ‘disguised’ as conventional long term rental units. 

The BBC says a key target is the Edinburgh student population; the city has an acute shortage of property and it has previously been claimed one in eight city centre homes has been on Airbnb or similar platforms.

The BBC’s research has uncovered a number of individuals willing to discuss scams in which they lost, combined, thousands of pounds.

It appears one particular fraudster targeted a flat owned by a private company providing accommodation for tourists. 

Some of the photographs used in legitimate advertising for the property were used by a scammer calling himself Wilson, who reposted the images with his own advert on Facebook Marketplace.

He lured potential tenants with low prices and sent those expressing an interest a list of lettings documents, including Registers of Scotland paperwork and a fake passport for a William Wilson, the apparent 'landlord'.

But the ownership papers and bank statements didn't match. His landlord number was linked to a different business in Orkney. The passport was also suspect - its unique number wasn't visible and it had what looked like an electronic signature. The BBC says the fraudster’s victims didn't notice until it was too late.

The housing crisis in the Scottish capital appears particularly acute.

Letting Agent Today earlier this week ran a story saying an agent faced 50 students applying for each available property. Cullen Property says this is still the case even in mid-November, despite the return to university in September.

 

Various bodies in Edinburgh are seeking to take action to prevent further frauds. 

The City of Edinburgh Council is gathering evidence to introduce a rent pressure zone in the city centre. It is also consulting on new planning rules for short-term lets but Scotland-wide legislation has been delayed. Meanwhile NUS Scotland, the national students’ union, wants the Scottish government to introduce a new strategy to ensure every new student has access to safe affordable housing. Police Scotland says an investigation was under way after officers received reports of potentially fraudulent activity.


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