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Is this a scam?

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in House Buying, Renting & Selling
22 replies 2.8K views
LeytonJonPagetLeytonJonPaget Forumite
2 posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in House Buying, Renting & Selling
My sister recently applied to rent a flat, and a lot of things don't really seem to add up:

  • The person letting the property said that this is because she is going to America for a year and is looking for someone to look after her stuff while she is away.
  • The only paperwork she has received about the property so far is a generic looking "application form", asking questions like whether or not she smokes or has any pets, to gauge her eligibility for the property, which was accepted straight away.
  • They have now asked for a payment of £500 to be made to their attourney/lawyer in the USA via Western Union to obtain a reference number (MTCN), which "will be used in the shipping process after finishing the documentation", after which the keys and flat documents will be sent to her via 24 hour courier. In earlier e-mails, they have said that this £500 consists of a £250 security deposit and £250 part payment of rent, and that this will be protected under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

The fact that they are asking her to pay upfront via Western Union without having signed any paperwork makes me question the authenticity of this. However, I only have experience renting a flat through a letting agency, and so I am unable to say for certain whether or not this is normal.

Any advice? I will provide any other details I can, but I didn't want to copy-paste the e-mail correspondence here because I'm not 100% sure if that's against the forum's policy or not.
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Replies

  • WanderingpommWanderingpomm Forumite
    325 posts
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    Yes it’s a scam
  • SibzSibz Forumite
    380 posts
    Has she even been in the place to see it?
    Where did she come across this advertisement for a flat?
    It all sounds extremely strange... I'm inclined to agree with Wandering above...

    If your sister sends this money - what can she do if everything goes silent and she hears nothing else?
    One main point - If the person is 'going' to America that implies she's not there yet. Have they met?
    If I was renting my place out adhoc and looking for someone to watch my 'stuff' I'd certainly be looking to at least meet them first - wouldn't you?

    Why do they have an attorney/lawyer in the US? Why not here - this is where the property is - right?
    It's defo BS
  • davidmcndavidmcn Forumite
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    Any stranger asking you to pay by Western Union is a scam - even Western Union have said something along those lines.
  • Comms69Comms69 Forumite
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    My sister recently applied to rent a flat, and a lot of things don't really seem to add up:

    • The person letting the property said that this is because she is going to America for a year and is looking for someone to look after her stuff while she is away. - That's fairly reasonable
    • The only paperwork she has received about the property so far is a generic looking "application form", asking questions like whether or not she smokes or has any pets, to gauge her eligibility for the property, which was accepted straight away. - bit strange, but ok.
    • They have now asked for a payment of £500 to be made to their attourney/lawyer in the USA via Western Union to obtain a reference number (MTCN), which "will be used in the shipping process after finishing the documentation", after which the keys and flat documents will be sent to her via 24 hour courier. - and now it's a scam In earlier e-mails, they have said that this £500 consists of a £250 security deposit and £250 part payment of rent, and that this will be protected under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. - nope. what a load of cobblers. Why not use a local letting agent, or even an English solicitor (as in based in England; come from wherever you like!)

    The fact that they are asking her to pay upfront via Western Union without having signed any paperwork makes me question the authenticity of this. However, I only have experience renting a flat through a letting agency, and so I am unable to say for certain whether or not this is normal. - Come on, western union. Really, this American lawyer is going to go running to his nearest post office to collect this...

    Any advice? I will provide any other details I can, but I didn't want to copy-paste the e-mail correspondence here because I'm not 100% sure if that's against the forum's policy or not.



    Its not against any policy (though youd be sensible to remove identifying details)


    Yes this is a scam
  • CakegutsCakeguts Forumite
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    It is a common scam in the US what gives it away is not just the Western Union but the keys arriving by courier is also part of these types of scam. The scammers usually advertise on Craigslist in the US so it will be something like Gumtree in the UK.



    The other red flags are that the property is cheaper than it should be for the area that it is in. Sometimes the person is away an not able to show anyone round or they get a "friend" to do it for them. Of course the property in question matches the one in the advert. The photos in the advert are often lifted from a genuine rental property. The person letting the property is away in another country or in the US in another state 1000s miles away from the property.



    This type of scam is so common that there are warnings about it.
  • Thank you very much everyone for your replies! I've passed this information onto my sister. :)
  • G_MG_M Forumite
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    At worst it's a scam (99% certain), but in the highly unlikely event that it is genuine, the tenant would have to withould 20% of the rent to pay HMRC the landlord's tax bill, since the landlord is overseas.......
    ** If I include a blue link in my post, click and read it before posting a follow-up question. The answer may be in the link! **
  • troffaskytroffasky Forumite
    251 posts
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    G_M wrote: »
    in the highly unlikely event that it is genuine, the tenant would have to withould 20% of the rent to pay HMRC the landlord's tax bill, since the landlord is overseas.......

    Really? Never heard of that one before.
  • robatworkrobatwork Forumite
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    Normally these "is it a scam?" questions result in a firm NO.

    In your case it's a solid YES bordering on a YES!
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