Police warn of scam involving fake property agents who ask for deposits to view homes
Another scam has popped up, where criminals pretend to be property agents and ask victims to pay money to secure an appointment for a viewing.
The police said on Monday (March 21) that there are at least 144 victims so far, with losses amounting to $190,000.
In these scams, fake property listings would be put up on websites.
After clicking on these advertisements, victims would receive WhatsApp messages from unknown numbers with the "+65" prefix.
Scammers would liaise with the victims using photos, names and licence numbers of legitimate property agents.
Such information can be found on rental websites, deceiving victims into believing that they are dealing with legitimate property agents.
Victims interested to view the property would then be asked to make refundable deposits to secure an appointment.
In an example provided to the police, a scammer asked victims for $300 to schedule a viewing for a master bedroom.
Scammers would provide bank account numbers or phone numbers for the victims to transfer money to.
Victims would discover that they had been tricked only after the scammers ceased contact with them.
The police advise the public to beware of property listings on alternative platforms and to verify the legitimacy of listings.
This can be done by ensuring that the contact number of the estate agency matches that on the Council for Estate Agencies website.
The public should also beware of numbers with the "+65" prefix, especially on WhatsApp chats.
Such "+65" prefixes were implemented by telcos in April 2020 to alert the public that they were being contacted from overseas, which is part of broader anti-scam efforts. The public should not pick up such calls if they are not expecting one from overseas.
Property agents are also not authorised to handle cash transactions. Therefore, there should be no money transfers before a house viewing.
Lastly, the public should generally not send money to unknown people.
Those who wish to provide information related to such scams can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit it online.
For scam-related advice, they can call 1800-722-6688 or visit the website.