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Real Estate Agent Warns Of Scammers Using Airbnbs As Their Fake Rental Homes

They even have false tenancy agreements to fool potential prey.

Cover image via Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash & rawpixel.com/Freepik

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From hacking your phones to spamming you with phone calls, scammers are always tricky with their tactics to scrape your money, even to the point of trying to use your vulnerability to their advantage.

One of their latest modus operandi is to prey on people who are searching for houses to rent.

On 24 August, real estate negotiator Razha Rahman, who goes by @razharahman on Twitter, shared how a client of his was scammed while searching for a place to rent.

"Her deposits were wasted, she didn't even get the house, and the scammer is still out there, running free," he said in the tweet.

The Twitter user begins the story by describing his client's situation, which led her on a desperate search for a new place to stay

The owner of the place she was staying at wanted to sell the house, so she had to evacuate as soon as possible.

"She had two weeks to find a new house. The owner had been urging her to move out every day."

"[However, a] Tenancy Agreement (TA) was never made. If there was a TA, by standard, the owner should have given her a two-month notice to move out," he said in the tweet.

Distressed from being bugged by the owner on a daily basis, the client began looking for houses to rent on mudah.my, a local online marketplace.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via yanalya/Freepik

There was an owner who advertised a place to rent for less than RM1,000, which seemed like a "crazy deal" to the client, who was desperately looking for a place to move in

According to Razha, the standard market price for rental homes in the area his client was looking at was RM700 for a bare unit, and RM1,200 for a partially or fully furnished unit.

"Coincidentally, there is an owner who posted an ad to rent a fully furnished unit in that same area for just RM700 (per month), so she immediately contacted the owner, thinking that she had won a crazy deal," Razha added.

Upon viewing the unit with her husband, the client found that the house looked exactly like the one in the advertisement, complete with furniture

"The place looked exactly as advertised... They even had a TA. It was perfect!" said Razha.

The person who brought them to the place claimed that he was the owner and the victims did not sense anything suspicious.

So, the couple accepted the offer and transferred RM1,000 to the "owner's" personal account "for booking purposes".

According to the "owner", the balance should be paid in cash on the day that they were supposed to receive the house keys.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via tirachardz/Freepik

The renter only realised she had been scammed on the day of the move after being ghosted by the "owner"

The man allegedly did not reply to her WhatsApp messages, nor did he pick up her calls. He even blocked the victim after she tried to reach him multiple times.

When she went to lodge a police report, it turned out that she was not the first person to report a similar incident that day. The first victim had lost RM5,000, according to the police.

The police told her that the scammers worked as a team, which explains why multiple people were scammed using the same method on the same day.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via pressfoto/Freepik

The police and Razha then explained the scammers' modus operandi: they booked an Airbnb and acted as rental unit owners to run their operations

Following the police report, the victims found the real owner of the Airbnb and learnt that the scammers had rented it for a couple of days.

Finally, Razha advised the public to avoid making payments to anybody's personal account when wanting to rent a house.

"Ask for a REN (Real Estate Negotiator) number and make payment to the agency or company's bank account when dealing with an agent," he instructed.

He also advised Airbnb owners to buy properties that have commercial titles instead of residential or commercial properties under the Housing Development Act (HDA), to safeguard themselves from scammers who may use the private property to operate fraudulent operations.

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