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New Scam: How Scammers Are Using Rental Ads to Rob Homeowners

Cyber scammers target housing ads, tricking owners. Verify tenant identity and avoid upfront payments to safeguard against fraud.



New Scam: How Scammers Are Using Rental Ads to Rob Homeowners

Mumbai residents looking to rent out their properties have become the latest target for cybercriminals. Following a rise in scams on matrimonial and job platforms, fraudsters are now posing as interested tenants on housing portals to dupe unsuspecting landlords.

At least two First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered in the past week. In the most recent case, a 36-year-old woman from Rabale fell victim to the scam after placing an advertisement on a real estate portal on March 9th. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, received a call the same day from a man identifying himself as “Bajrang.” Claiming to be an army officer on transfer to Mumbai, “Bajrang” expressed interest in renting the woman’s property.

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The conversation turned suspicious when “Bajrang” requested a seemingly small initial payment of Rs 5. He explained this as a necessary “army process” to receive her bank details, a claim the woman found odd but ultimately believed after he promptly returned the Rs 5. “Bajrang” then convinced the woman to send him the full Rs 79,000 upfront for the deposit and first month’s rent, assuring her he would immediately return a combined sum of Rs 1.58 lakh.

Hesitant at first, the woman eventually relented under “Bajrang’s” continued insistence on following “army procedures.” However, alarm bells rang when he demanded an additional Rs 10,000 as a “processing fee.” Contacting her bank, the woman’s suspicions were confirmed – there was no such process. When she attempted to call “Bajrang” again, the number went unanswered.

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Realizing she had been scammed, the woman approached the Pant Nagar police station and filed an FIR. Police officials revealed a similar case earlier this week, where an individual advertising a property in Nashik fell victim to the same tactics at the Ghatkopar police station.

Mumbai police are urging residents to exercise caution when dealing with potential tenants contacted online. Verification of identification, such as requesting a copy of a driver’s license or passport, is a recommended safety measure. Additionally, being wary of unusual financial requests is crucial in avoiding such scams.

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Landlords should also be wary of any requests to send money upfront, especially for things like “processing fees” or taxes. Legitimate tenants will be happy to pay rent and any applicable deposits directly upon signing a lease agreement. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a potential tenant creates pressure or a sense of urgency to move forward quickly, it’s a red flag. Taking the time to verify a tenant’s identity and background can save Mumbai residents from becoming the next victims of this cyber scam.

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