Holiday home rental scam

The inventiveness of the crooks in the property sector is a subject on which developers and estate agents can talk at length.

“No sooner has one loophole been eliminated than another will be found,” says Paul Henry, MD of Rawson Developers.

The latest scam to come to his attention concerns the renting of attractive coastal homes over the summer holiday season.

“Typically,” says Henry, “an advertisement will appear on an internet site offering a home at a rate that is well below the norm – for example, R650 per day for a home at Stilbaai with beds for ten people. This will be accompanied by pictures of a home – which almost certainly does not belong to the advertiser.

“The enquirer will then be told that the property can be his for the period he had requested – but to confirm the booking he must deposit R1 000 in a certain bank account.

“Needless to day, once this is done no more is heard from the advertiser who disappears off the scene and is probably not traceable because he has operated under a false name and his bank account is in the name of a non-existent property.”

As these scamsters have dozens of properties on offer, it looks, says Henry, as if they are getting away with thousands of rands.

One of the things to watch out for when making the initial enquiries, he warns, is the question “Which property are you phoning about?”

“If you are asked this,” he says, “you should immediately be suspicious because most owners have only one holiday home and their agents, if they have one, will probably be handling only two or three.”

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