Chief Editor September 22 2023

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How to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a rental scam?

Scammers are posting fake property advertisements on Facebook and Carousell and assuming the identities of property agents to deceive victims into making payments in order to secure appointments for property viewings or rentals. In Singapore, it is mandatory for all property agents to be registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) before they are authorized to engage in property transactions. 

At least 305 victims have fallen prey to rental scams with total losses amounting more than $1.7 million in the first quarter of 2023.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind the public of precautionary measures to safeguard against falling victim to rental scams. 

1. Do not rent from a second landlord. Subletting is illegal. 

2. Request for proof of ownership. A document from INLIS or HDB to list the owner(s) of the house. 

3. Physically check the identity card (NRIC / FIN) of the owner. It must tally with the proof of ownership document. 

4. Meet the property agent who is representing the landlord. Get a copy of his name card then verify his full name and mobile number against CEA records.

5. Always visit the rental property in person to verify its existence, condition, and signs of potential subletting.

6. Avoid making any upfront payments until the tenancy agreement is confirmed. Use bank transfers to maintain documentary evidence.

7. Confirm the identities of the individuals you are dealing with and their relationship to the property. This is especially crucial when not engaging the services of a licensed estate agent or registered salespersons.

8. Avoid rental advertisements from Facebook and Carousell as many fraudulent cases originated from the social media platforms. Because anyone can post and pretend to be a landlord or property agent. 

9. Do not answer calls from +65 because such phone numbers can be spoofed by a scammer to pretend that he is the owner of this phone number.

For additional information regarding scams, members of the public can visit or contact the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688. If you possess any information related to such scams, please call the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000 

Rental scams are on the rise since 2021 when COVID-19 caused a surge in demand for rental housing. It prompted many tenants to book a house without a physical viewing. 

Rental Scam Case Study 1 - Fake listings on Carousell and Facebook 

A 42-year-old woman has been apprehended by law enforcement authorities in connection with a series of rental scams that occurred recently.

From June 10th to July 24th, 2023, the police received numerous complaints from victims who had responded to online listings on platforms such as Carousell and Facebook. These listings purportedly offered rooms for rent in the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 area. Victims, after physically inspecting the rental units, were asked to provide a deposit to secure the accommodation. Subsequently, the woman allegedly canceled the rental agreements and delayed the return of the deposited funds.

Following diligent investigations, officers from the Woodlands Police Division successfully identified and arrested the suspect on July 26th, 2023. Preliminary findings suggest that she may be connected to eight similar rental scam cases, resulting in losses exceeding $7,000.

The woman is scheduled to appear in court on July 28th, 2023, facing charges of cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code 1871. This offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment and a fine.

Rental Scam Case Study 2 - Telegram 

A 32-year-old man has been apprehended by the police on suspicion of orchestrating a series of rental scams through a Telegram group chat.

From March to May of 2023, the police received multiple reports from victims who fell prey to fraudulent home rental schemes. The suspect engaged with these victims in a Telegram group chat, ostensibly offering rooms for rent in a housing unit located along Yishun Avenue 11. After collecting deposits exceeding $7,500 via bank transfers from these victims, the man allegedly reneged on the agreements and failed to provide the promised rooms or housing unit.

Following thorough investigations, officers from the Woodlands Police Division were able to ascertain the identity of the suspect, leading to his arrest on May 30th, 2023.

The man is set to face charges in court on May 31st, 2023, under Section 420 of the Penal Code 1871 for the offense of cheating. This offense carries a potential penalty of imprisonment for up to ten years, in addition to a fine.

Rental Scam - Case Study 3

A 34-year-old man has been apprehended by the police due to his suspected participation in a series of fraudulent flat rental schemes.

Starting from August 2022, the police have received a total of 28 reports related to flat rental scams occurring along Yung Kuang Road. The suspect initiated contact with victims who had shown interest in renting either individual bedrooms or entire housing units through various social media platforms. Upon receiving deposits from these victims, the man provided various excuses to breach the agreements and subsequently failed to fulfill his promise of refunding the victims.

Through diligent follow-up investigations, officers from the Jurong Police Division were able to identify and apprehend the 34-year-old man on April 5th, 2023. Preliminary investigations have also uncovered his alleged involvement in another case related to a visa application scam.

The man is scheduled to appear in court on June 13th, 2023, where he will face charges under Section 420 of the Penal Code 1871 for the offense of cheating. This offense carries a potential penalty of imprisonment for up to ten years, in addition to a fine.

Rental Scam - Case Study 4 - Impersonating a property agent

Benedict fell victim to an online rental scam when he responded to a fraudulent listing for a HDB 2-room flat.

The scammer, posing as a CEA-registered property agent, employed various tactics to appear credible. Via WhatsApp, the scammer shared an image of an Estate Agents card, falsely presenting it as evidence of his identity. Additionally, the scammer fabricated official documents, including a Letter of Intent, in an attempt to enhance his legitimacy.

To further deceive Benedict, the scammer requested a two-month rental deposit and the initial month's rent, assuring Benedict that they would arrange a property viewing and the signing of the tenancy agreement the following day.

In an effort to verify the scammer's authenticity, Benedict conducted a search for the scammer's contact number in the CEA Public Register. However, this search yielded no results. Suspecting foul play, Benedict confronted the scammer, who then managed to trick him by spoofing the registered agent's contact number (including the "+65" country code) during a call to Benedict

Unfortunately, Benedict transferred a partial payment to the scammer before taking further action. It was only when he reached out to the registered contact number again and spoke with the legitimate agent, who was completely unaware of the ongoing deception, that Benedict realized he had fallen victim to a scam. Subsequently, he called police to report the scam.