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Police warning over scam targeting deposits on flats

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FRAUDSTERS advertising properties for rent are taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to try and scam people out of large deposits, the States police have confirmed.

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Property scams, where fake online profiles offer rental accommodation and ask for a deposit in advance before viewing, have been reported to the police on previous occasions. And in recent weeks a similar scheme has resurfaced.

A spokeswoman for the States police has warned Islanders not to part with deposits in advance.

She said: ‘Police have taken recent reports of online local property scams, very similar to some scams reported last year, where properties are advertised online and scammers ask for advance deposits.

‘Fraudsters are now taking advantage of the Covid-19 restrictions using the current lockdown as an excuse for why a property cannot be viewed before a deposit is paid.

‘We would advise people not to part with deposits in advance and to make all the necessary checks possible before making any transactions or disclosing any personal information.’

Emma Kemp-McMillan recently posted on social media warning people not to fall into the trap.

She was looking for a new flat and was contacted by someone offering a flat in Westmount and demanding money in advance.

Before it was too late, she realised it was a scam and reported it to the police.

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She said: ‘I posted a comment on the Jersey Property Rentals Facebook group seeing if any landlords had properties to rent in the Westmount area. I was private messaged by a man who appeared to be called Pete Ford who told me he had a property for rental at Westmount, that would allow an indoor cat, for £1,050 per month

‘He sent me pictures and I immediately knew something was not right. The flat was huge and there was no way somewhere in the Westmount area would be that cheap.

‘He explained that due to social distancing, I would not be able to view so I would need to pay a £300 part-deposit as a holding fee then pay the other £750 at a later date when lockdown is over and I could view the flat. I listened to my intuition and conducted a reverse image search on Google of the property images he had sent which showed me that this was in fact a two-bed property for sale with Benest Estates.'

She added: 'When I told the Facebook user that I was aware that this was a scam, they tried to further lie that this was their property and it was an old listing that Benest hadn’t removed yet. I am lucky as I didn’t pay any money but I know others weren’t as fortunate.’

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