A homeless woman has been left $1800 out of pocket after falling victim to a scam.
Alanna O'Connor was struggling to find a rental property after the lease to her home ended in May.
The Warrnambool woman was looking for a home for her and her 19-year-old daughter Leeshia, who has severe disabilities.
She decided to look for a rental property in Melbourne and put a call out on a number of internet and social media sites.
"I had 17 people contacting me about properties they had for lease," Ms O'Connor said.
"I was unable to view them in person or meet with these people due to the Melbourne lockdown and only being able to travel 25 kilometres."
She said a woman who said she had a property to lease in Melbourne emailed her what appeared to be a lease agreement and asked for an $1800 deposit to cover the bond and rent for the first two weeks.
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Ms O'Connor said the woman assured her she would hand over the keys for the property on Thursday last week.
She waited at the property for some time before starting a conversation with a real estate agent who was at the house next door.
"We got talking and he showed me the real estate details to the property I was meant to be leasing for the next 12 months," Ms O'Connor said. However, the house was not available for rent.
She has been left devastated and heartbroken someone would stoop so low.
Ms O'Connor is visiting family in Warrnambool at the moment and doesn't know what to do next.
She has reported the scam to police.
Consumer Affairs Victoria advises scammers advertise rentals on well-known property websites.
"When you express interest, they say they are overseas or interstate and that you must conduct the transaction online," their website states.
"The scammers may try to appear genuine by providing photos, real addresses of properties, land title deeds and even scans of stolen passports.
"They scam you by asking for a month's bond and rent to secure the property.
"If you pay by money transfer, there is very little chance of recovering your money."
Protect yourself when looking for a home
- If possible, verify the identity of the person you are dealing with. For example, if they say they work for an established estate agency, you could contact the agency to confirm you are dealing with their representative.
- If the property owner offers ongoing excuses about why you cannot view the property in person - such as them being overseas - be wary.
- Avoid paying via money transfer services, or making a payment directly into a bank account, because these methods may be less secure than using BPAY.
- If you are paying a bond for a Victorian property, it's best to pay via a money order or bank cheque made out to the Residential Tenancy Bond Authority (RTBA).
- Do an internet search with images from the advertising, to check they haven't been copied from another site. You can use image search websites such as Google images