SINGAPORE — The Singapore police said that since January, at least 997 people have fallen victim to scammers posing as property agents resulting in total losses of at least S$3.9 million.
There has been a resurgence of a scam whereby scammers impersonate legitimate property agents and ask victims for payment to secure the rental of a unit before viewing the property, according to a police advisory on Friday (26 August).
The police said in this scam variant, the victims would typically respond to an online property listing and start a conversation with the scammer via WhatsApp using the contact numbers in the fake online listing.
During the conversation, the scammer would impersonate a registered property agent and convince the victim of his credentials by sending a picture of the property agent's business card and pictures or videos of the property to be leased.
The scammer would then request for the victim's personal details to prepare the lease agreement.
When victims asked if they could view the property, the scammers would claim that the landlord was unavailable. To add an air of legitimacy, scammers would send a copy of a lease agreement with the name and NRIC of the purported owner of the unit to the victims for signature.
After signing, victims would then be instructed to make payment for various reasons (such as rental deposits, stamp duty or other fees) to secure the rental.
They would only discover that they had been scammed after the scammer ceased contact with them or when they reach out to the legitimate property agents through other means.
Check legitimacy of listings
The police advised members of the public to adopt precautionary measures such as verifying the legitimacy of a property listing.
They can do so by liaising with a property agent using only the agent's phone number registered on the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA)'s Public Register. Members of the public may check whether a property agent is registered with the CEA by searching for the agent's phone number on the CEA Public Register.
If the search does not lead to the property agent's profile page, it means that the property agent has not registered that phone number with the CEA and the listing may be a scam.
The public can also contact the agent's property agency to verify the authenticity of the listing.
The police also warned the public to beware of calls with the "+" prefix which originate from overseas, as well as not to make any payments before a property viewing, and not to disclose personal information, credit card and bank details or passwords, including one-time passwords (OTPs), to anyone.
Anyone with information related to such scams can call the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit an online report at this website.