Home rental scams in Singapore saw a fivefold increase in 2022, with a staggering 979 cases reported,compared to 192 cases in 2021. Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Home Affairs and Social and Family Development, disclosed this in Parliament on Tuesday in response to a question from Ms Yeo Wan Ling, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency.
Ms Sun added that such scams were perpetuated via e-commerce and social media platforms.The modus operandi of these scams usually involves fraudsters posing as landlords or agents offering attractive rental prices for a property. They would then ask potential renters to make an advance payment to secure the property, and once the payment is made, the fraudsters would disappear and become uncontactable.
According to the reports, many of the victims had fallen prey to such scams as they had not viewed the property physically and had made advance payments without any prior background check or verification. It is important to note that the authorities have advised against making payments before viewing the property physically and checking the credentials of the landlord or agent.
The recent rise in these scams has prompted the government and authorities to increase their efforts in tackling the issue. The Singapore Police Force has been conducting regular public education campaigns to raise awareness of such scams and how to avoid them. Ms Sun said that they have also been working closely with property portals and online marketplaces to monitor and detect fraudulent listings, and with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) to include advisories on rental scams on its social media channels. Ms Sun said, “The best defence is a vigilant and discerning public. We encourage the public to verify the identity of the persons with whom you are dealing.”
News outlets such as The Straits Times had reported in March this year that there were at least 305 people who fell prey to home rental scams in the first quarter of 2023 itself. Those articles quoted the victims saying that they had quickly made deposits as they were desperate to secure a unit. Scammers had also been offering online ‘jobs’ to people to make posts on different platforms on their behalf using their own personal accounts, thus making the scam look legitimate.
The rise of home rental scams in Singapore is a worrying trend, and to avoid becoming a victim of such scams, it is important to be cautious when searching for rental properties. Always view the property physically and carry out background checks on the landlord or agent before making any payments. Additionally, do not make any advance payments before ensuring that relevant agreements and transactions are documented and signed. By staying vigilant and following the guidelines set by the authorities, renters can protect themselves from fraudulent activities and enjoy a safe and secure rental experience.