Tenant scam artists ‘hijacked my house to rent out on Facebook’
- Credit: Simon Parkin
A Norwich woman was left shocked after discovering her house had been hijacked by online rental scam artists who have left would-be tenants hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Thea Horsey, 71, returned from holiday to discover her home in Sprowston had been advertised for rent on Facebook without her knowledge.
The first she knew of the scam was when would-be tenants with fake rental agreements arrived ready to move in.
The retired software engineer said: “There was a knock on the door and it was a man with a van full of furniture. He said he had a tenancy agreement and that the man he had rented was going to meet him to give him the keys, but I said ‘I’m sorry I own this house and it’s not for rent’.”
“He was very unhappy because he had paid a lot of money, £1,300 for the first month’s rent and a deposit.”
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A second would-be tenant contacted Mrs Horsey after becoming suspicious.
Marie Cross, who was looking to rent a house for her and her two teenage sons, said: “I had gotten as far as a tenancy agreement but I got suspicious because the bloke said he lived out of the country and was going to send the keys.
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“Then he changed his mind and wanted to come and meet me. That set off alarm bells so I didn’t actually send him any money.”
Mrs Horsey said pictures used on the property site Rightmove when she previously tried to sell her home in Dovedales Court had been copied to advertise it for rent on a Facebook group called ‘Rooms, houses and flats to rent in Norwich’.
The details on the fake letting agreement were for a business address in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. After she left a message on a phone number the Facebook advert was removed.
She has reported the scam to Norfolk police who have referred it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.
“It left me very worried because I live on my own. I feel vulnerable because I don’t know who is going to turn up at my door,” she said.
Tessa Shepperson, a legal expert with Landlord Law Services in Norwich, said: “Tenants really need to be on their guard. You need to be very wary about paying for a property you haven't seen or paying cash.
“Sending money to people advertising properties on Facebook isn’t a good idea, you are much safer going to letting agents registered with bodies like the Association of Residential Letting Agents.”