Safety tips

We’re here to give our customers a free and easy way to advertise and find clinical and personal rental opportunities. And we hope that most people who use our site stick to the rules, some might break them and cause a problem. We can’t keep an eye on everyone all the time, so we share as much advice with our customers as we can to keep them safe.

Here’s some safety tips and advice we’ve collected from similar services to ours that might assist you to improve your awareness when using these types of online services.

Our biggest piece of advice is: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s why we encourage customers to meet tenants or landlords in a public place in daylight – and to take a friend. If anything bad or suspicious happens, they should get in touch with us straight away.

If someone’s breaking our listing rules and a customer reports them, we can block them and delete their ad. If it’s a very serious issue, we encourage customers to call the police. 

These are our top tips to staying safe when trading online. There’s a lot more information available online, but here are some basics:


Let’s face it, con-artists love to use the ‘free’ listing sites like Craigslist, Gumtree and so on.  They can list for free, give very few details, nobody is running checks on them and the audience of potential renters is wide enough to capture people who are trusting and don’t do the right checks.  This is still a small number compared to all the legitimate adverts, just be more vigilant on these sites.  Yes there can be fake ads on property portals like Rightmove or FindaProperty, because really good con-artists will goto the greatest lengths – it’s just less likely.

Look out for these tell-tale signs:

Have you noticed another advert for the same property, using different language or pictures?   Does the same phone number, email address or contact name appear in different adverts?

Does the rental description sound poorly worded, perhaps there are incorrect spellings?  Many scammers are based outside the UK and do not speak or write fluent English.

Is the owner trying to appear respectable, for example saying you should contact Dr. Smith?  They could be trying to gain your confidence by appearing to be in a position of authority. 


Do property pictures on the advert differ from the property you are shown?  Often tricksters advertise a home using pictures copied from the internet, then take you to view a property they do not own. As they need to run lots of different ads, they may use different copied pictures then take everyone to see a property they can only get access to for a short time, to build the belief they genuinely have a property to rent.  Don’t accept any excuse for pictures being different from the property – just walk away.

How about if photos of the property look unnatural or strange?  Many scammers take photos from magazines and scan them onto computer, or copy images from websites advertising furniture or interior design – if it looks too glossy, make sure you check out the property in person.

Weak Contact Details

Mobile number only?  Ask for a landline and ring back on that.  Free email account address, such as or  Ask if they have a business email address, to prove they are legitimate (alot of private landlords have regular jobs too).  Should you go ahead with the property, ask for the landlords address before handing over any money – if they are genuine they know you will need this.  Google the address – there are many reverse enquiry websites that tell you who lives where.

For Tenants

-  Always try to meet the landlord in person. This gives you the chance to check what you’re looking at before you pay across any money, such as a deposit.

-  Check the advertised space is real. There are examples of online fraudsters listing fake addresses or images, or listing someone’s else space that is not theres to rent. Never pay any money to anyone without first viewing the property.

-  Ask for paperwork. Perhaps something that shows that they are the current owner or tenant of the place being advertised.

More advice

Have a read through the rest of the information and links below and feel free to drop us a note via the contact us link if you have any further questions. Remember to report any listing that you think might be fraudulent to us for review. We reply on the input of our customers to assist with providing the most secure environment that we can.

Example Scam

What's a Rental Scam? 

Rental scams are a variation on a theme. The scammer tries to get money from a prospective tenant for an apartment that the scammer is in no legal position to rent.

The apartment might be real (in which case, the scammer doesn't have the authority to lease it) or fictitious.

The scammer could be a real landlord or, more likely, an impostor.

Unsuspecting potential tenants who are quite often from overseas, reply to advertisements on the website for rental accommodation in the UK.

After supposed satisfactory e-mails, tenants are asked to send money to the 'landlord'. Having sent the money, when the tenants attempt to make contact with the ‘landlord' or, indeed, collect keys to the property, the 'landlord' is uncontactable and the potential tenant has been defrauded.

In this latest scam, the 'landlord' claims to be a member of the NLA, uses the NLA logo and has created fake stationary copying that produced by the bona fide, NLA Tenant Check service.

Richard Price, director of operations, NLA, said: 'Tenants, no matter where they are from, should not send payment to advertisers before they are certain that the advertiser is genuine.

'Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK would be well advised to first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to. They will be knowledgeable of standard practices in the UK and often have lists of accredited landlords and local letting agents.’

A tenant can check on whether a prospective landlord is a member of the National Landlords Association, by going to

Other popular scams

Getting money paid in advance for a property that doesn’t exist.

The false property

A scammer will rent a property and then show prospective renters around it. They will then collect the first month’s rent, security deposits and other fees they can milk out of the unsuspecting victims. They will then vanish with the money. It makes it important to be wary of turning up to a property and handing over cash – this isn't standard renting practice.

Helping a friend

A variation of this can be the scam artist claiming to be helping someone else rent the property, such as a sick relative. They would have broken into the property whilst the owners were away and the property wasn’t for rent at all.

Foreign rental scams

Foreign rental scams can be easy to spot, with broken English e-mails and offers to pay money up front - but many still fall for them. They are actioned over the internet without the scammers involved even needing to visit the property, or even the country. This is on the increase because it can target both property owners and renters. They will post a bogus ad online and then ask for deposits – and believe it or not, some trusting people fall for this. Tracing them can be impossible,

The tenant scams the landlord 

On the flip side, someone posting as a renter will answer an online posting for a property and ask to pay by Western Union or a similar service. If the landlord falls for this, the renter will ‘accidentally' pay too much. They will then apologise and ask for the extra funds to be sent back to them. The original payment will bounce and the payment that the landlord sends will then be used by the scammer. This is called a Nigerian 419 scam.

Follow some General Rules

Always ask the landlord for their ID when visiting a property.

Make sure you use trusted websites and check the NLA website (UK) to make sure the landlord in question is genuine.

Never pay money upfront for anything, until you are certain that the landlord and/or letting agent are who they say they are, and are reputable.

Be vigilant of e-mails in broken English, whether you are prospective renter or landlord. It can be worth typing the name at the end of the e-mail in Google. Quite often, scam artists are exposed on there and it is surprising as to what you can find out.

Don't let your guard down when looking for an apartment. Just because you use a reputable apartment search Web site doesn’t mean you can't get scammed by unscrupulous landlords or people posing as landlords who manage to get their listings onto these sites.

You're asked to pay an unusually high security deposit or too many upfront fees. If the landlord wants a higher security deposit than what’s required by law, or if upfront fees seem excessive to you, it could be a sign that the landlord wants to take your money and run.

The landlord seems too eager to lease the apartment to you. Many landlords want to know your credit score, and they may also want more information about you, such as a criminal background check and employment verification. If a landlord doesn't seem interested in any form of tenant screening or appears too eager to negotiate the rent and other lease terms with you, it's suspicious.

The landlord has a convenient excuse for not being able to meet you or show the property. The person behind a listing might say he's out of the country indefinitely or that he won't return until after you would need to agree to the rental and pay money.

You feel unwarranted sales pressure. If a landlord acts too pushy, it can be a red flag. 

In general, if something feels wrong with a listing, the application process feels rushed, or the whole experience just seems to good to be true, it may be wise not to pursue it.

Preventing fraud

Preventing the most sophisticated scams can be hard, but the following tips will help minimize your risk.

1. Never dealing in cash

The weak-point in almost all fraud schemes is receiving untraceable payment. Sophisticated crooks know that the police can track most common types of payment putting them at risk for arrest. Most criminals will insist an a difficult-to-trace form of payment and if you refuse they will look for an easier victim.

A tenant should never pay a landlord cash for anything. This is especially true for a security deposit and first month's rent. The tenant should also avoid wiring money, using Western Union or any other type of hard-to-trace cash equivalent such as Moneygram, Bitcoin or MoneyPak.

Legitimate landlords will usually accept regular or cashier's checks, which are easier for the police to trace if a criminal makes off with your money. Even if the landlord isn't a scammer, cash only landlords are often highly problematic.

Any attempt by a landlord to be anonymous should be seen as a red-flag. Even in the best-case scenario, this person may be hard to reach if repairs are needed.

2. Demanding a written lease

Oral leases are valid and are problematic in many ways. If a tenant and landlord want a month-to-month lease that is fine, but the lease should still be in writing to prevent fraud and to lay out the rights and responsibilities of the parties.

Not only should a tenant require a written lease, the tenant should also demand a copy of the lease signed by the landlord.

Landlords often give tenants an unsigned lease to sign and then ask the tenant to send the lease to them for signature. More often than not, the landlord never sends the tenant a copy of the fully executed lease. Ideally, the landlord and tenant should sign the lease in each other's physical presence and in duplicate so each can walk away with a copy.

3. Never renting sight-unseen

So many bad rental situations begin with a tenant signing a lease for an apartment without seeing it. The tenant, or a friend or family-member of the tenant should absolutely see the apartment in person before signing a lease or transferring funds.

Viewing an apartment helps prevent fraud and also ensures that the tenant is aware of the condition of the unit (which is almost never improved upon before move-in).

Though we are seeing many scams where the "landlord" has access to the unit, insisting on viewing the unit will cut down on the risk of fraud significantly.

4. Meeting the landlord in person

Though some scammers will readily meet tenants in person, many, especially those operating from over-seas, will not. A personal meeting with the landlord will allow you to screen out some con artists and will also allow you to get an impression of the landlord's personality.

Though many out-of-town landlords are legitimate, insisting on a local landlord or management company will lessen the risk of fraud and usually leads to better service.

5. Speaking with the current tenants

In most cases, landlords are showing a unit that is currently occupied. Currently occupied units are far less likely to be fraudulent operations. If you have a chance, speak to the current tenants outside of the presence of the landlord to find out how the landlord treats tenants and whether anything unusual is taking place.

As a general note, speaking to current tenants might dis-spell misinformation provided by a landlord or their agent.

6. Ensuring the written lease identifies the owner or agent

Written leases should identify the name, address and phone number of the owner or authorised management agent for the property.

When reviewing the written lease, make sure that this information is disclosed and that the address listed is not the address of the apartment or a P.O. box. It doesn't hurt to Google the address listed to make sure it isn't a U.P.S. store or similar operation.

7. Conducting basic research

When considering an apartment, take some time to do a Google search. Google the address of the apartment and also the landlord’s name and the name of the management company as it might show up some red flags in only seconds on the internet. Never take a chance when renting, there are plenty of other apartments out there.

In addition to an internet search, more skilled researchers can check to see if the property is in foreclosure or has been sold to a bank. Both of which are units that should be avoided as potential targets for scammers or simply because there will likely be poor management.

Cut and paste the content of the listing (including the address and any contact details) into a search engine. If it’s a popular scam, you’ll likely find it elsewhere. It may be mentioned on blogs or amateur scam watch sites (you should always check with official sources like SCAMwatch (Australia) as well).

8. Be wary of landlords that have little interest in your background.

What sort of landlords don't worry about their tenant's ability to pay, criminal record and past rental record? Scammers and slum-lords. Most legitimate landlords will at least run a credit check, others will also request criminal history and rental history.

9. Avoiding sub-leasing

Sub-leasing is extremely risky for both the original tenant and sub-tenant. Checking the authority of an individual trying to sub-let an apartment is magnitudes more difficult than verifying the actual owner/landlord. On top of that, if something goes wrong recourse may be minimal as the tenant leasing the unit to the sub-tenant may be broke, uninsured and unfindable.  If you want to take over a lease, work with the landlord to terminate the old lease and sign a new lease directly with you.

10. Lots of Email or Phone communication

Fake landlords build up your trust by engaging in lots of emails or phone calls, to ‘sell’ you the property (without viewing it) and get you hooked.  Once they think they have convinced you they will ask for money: usually via money transfer – this is a scam!  Sometimes they want personal details upfront including your address and bank details – never give them these, they are trying to commit identity fraud by passing themselves off as you.

11. No Viewings Allowed

By far the biggest way con-artists succeed is by taking money from people before showing them the property.  No matter how elaborate the excuse (we’re redecorating/ removing asbestos/ landlord is out of the country), Never rent a property that you are not allowed to view at least twice.  Some of the excuses we hear often (to avoid letting you see a property) are:

Landlord lives abroad and doesn’t have anyone to show you, but will post you the keys once you’ve paid a deposit (they will use fake pictures)

Property undergoing refurbishment – sometimes they give you the address of a real property being refurbished, so if you go to see the outside,it looks genuine – this is a scam, even if they walk you to the outside of the property themselves!

Asbestos, or some other dangerous material is being removed from the property, so nobody can see it at the moment.

Current tenant won’t allow viewings as they ‘work from home/ work funny hours/ have relatives staying.’

Sometimes the fake Landlord will give you contact details for someone they claim can vouch for the property (often they pretend it’s the current tenant) – never trust anyone like this.

If you live outside the area of the property, even abroad you must either make time to view, have someone view for you (a new colleague or friend) or stay in a hotel, hostel or serviced apartment to give you time to conduct viewings – if you are open to different areas, there always be a selection of long term lets that are vacant and ready to move into quickly.


When dealing with private landlords, ask them to show ID such as driving licence and a utility bill (both have addresses on them), perhaps on your second viewing to ‘establish they are genuine.’  Of course check the picture matches, and check the address matches the one they have given you as their home address.

Always pay by credit card where you can, as you will have some protection from the card company.  Especially for reference checks and credit checks (Landlords often have you pay, in case you fail the checks) – tell the landlord to get those companies to contact you and you will pay them directly by credit card.  A landlord may not take cards, but agencies can.

Never pay by money transfer (Western Union etc.) – scammers love these services as it’s easy to get the money out of the country where it’s hard to get back.

Never pay Cash – ever!


Landlords are required to put your deposit in a Government backed tenancy deposit scheme, to ensure peace of mind in having your deposit returned, if you have paid bills on-time, kept the property in good condition and met any terms in the tenancy contract. Following the tenancy ending, Landlords must return the deposit monies within 10days.  In the United Kingdom to find out what questions are best to ask, to ensure your deposit is protected, we’d recommend looking at:

Duped into debt

Rogue landlords often charge extortionate amounts for hidden costs not previously discussed, such as fees for a tenancy inspection and then ‘conveniently’ forget to tell tenants about it. This means the tenant has a debt that they may not even be aware of. These debts increase over time and when tenants attempt to leave the property, they are lumbered with a huge bill that they are expected to pay — although they are not legally obliged to.

Ask for written confirmation of exactly what you will have to pay for over the lifetime of the tenancy. Remember you are not liable for a debt if you didn’t agree to it within the tenancy agreement.

Disappearing deposits

Although a legal requirement, some rogue landlords may try to avoid putting tenants’ deposits in a tenancy deposit scheme. This leaves the tenant in an extremely vulnerable position if there is a dispute. Rogue landlords often claim money handed over prior to entering the property was an administrative fee as opposed to a deposit.

Always ask which authorised deposit scheme your landlord will be putting your deposit into.

What to do if you have been scammed

Prevention is always far better than trying to recover from a fraud after the fact. In most cases, you will never see your money again and the criminal may get away.

If you have been scammed, make a police report and give them as much information as possible

Contact the appropriate legal or tenants’ rights agency. 

Report a Scam in Australia -

We hope you’ve found the above information useful in understanding some of the issues when dealing with rental properties on the internet. We will update this information as new things surface to help support customers to make informed decisions from both a tenant and landlord perspective.