According to the Singapore Police force, in 2022 alone, up till Aug 26, at least 997 people have lost a total of $3.9 million since January after they fell victim to scammers posing as property agents.
There has been an increase in scammers impersonating legitimate property agents and asking victims for payment to secure the rental of a unit before viewing the property, according to the police advisory.
The police said victims would typically respond to online property listings and initiate a conversation with the scammers via WhatsApp using the contact numbers in the fake listings.
During the conversation, the scammer posing as a registered property agent, would convince the victim of his credentials by sending a photo of the agent’s business card and pictures or videos of the property to be leased.
The scammer would then ask for the victim’s personal details to prepare the lease agreement. When the victims asked if they could view the property, the scammers would claim that the landlord was unavailable. To add an air of legitimacy, the scammers would send a copy of the lease agreement with the name and NRIC of the purported owner of the unit to the victims for them to sign.
After signing, the victims are asked to make payment for various reasons such as rental deposits, stamp duty, or other fees to secure the rental.
They would discover that they had been cheated only after the scammers ceased contact with them, or when they reached out to the legitimate property agents through other means.
In this post, I will share a few simple steps you can take as percussion to avoid getting scammed, and list down some do’s and don’ts you can practice. Like other advice on my site, you can always engage with me when in doubt.
1. Check if your property agent is registered.
All registered property agents have a unique CEA registration number e.g. R123456A. This must be displayed with their names on their estate agent cards that must be worn when they meet clients, and shown on advertisements that they put out.
When you have an agent’s CEA registration number, name, or mobile number, you can verify his details via the Public Register on the CEA website
2. View listings only from reputable platforms
View listings only from reputable platforms (PropertyGuru, 99co, EdgeProp, etc.) as they conduct proper screenings and allow only verified property agents to advertise. Avoid Facebook forums and other social media platforms, as anyone can post there.
3. Don’t transfer money to view a property.
You can refer to my guide on The Process of securing a lease to get yourself familiar will all the steps involved. Do not transfer money to strangers to secure a viewing slot. There is no such practice, and it will only lead to you potentially being scammed.
Remember, always apply caution and due diligence when large sums of money are involved. Other more serious crimes were reported involving registered agents trying to mislead their clients for personal gain. Even when you engage with a licensed property agent. Make sure he/she is trustworthy and has your best interest in their mind.
It is always good to meet face-to-face, get to know each other, and see if this is the right fit for you. You will need to feel comfortable with the agent’s working style and methods.