Scam warnings

Three of our letting agent members have recently contact SAL about fraudulent activity.

  1. The first contacted the SAL helpline to enquire about a call they’d received notifying them of a health and safety inspection which required to be carried out at their office. The caller advised they were visiting another agent in the area, but couldn’t say who due to data protection laws. The agent felt that the person on the phone sounded legitimate and they gave a name and a contact number. She wanted guidance on what to expect from this visit.
    The SAL helpline advisor she spoke to was suspicious about this visit as it is very rare for health and safety officials to carry out inspections at letting agents’ premises. The agent did an internet search on the phone number and discovered that it was recorded as a number used in scams. Having consulted an IT expert we suspect they may have been intending to access the agent’s office in order to insert a USB stick into one of their devices to access and copy their data.
  1. The second agent received an email enquiry about a vacant property. The email contained a link to an attached Word document setting out the prospective tenant’s property requirements. It later transpired that the Word document contained a virus allowing the fraudster to clone the agent’s email account. They could then access any emails received by the agent and reply from the agent’s email address.
  1. The third agent wanted to let us know about a concerning situation which arose following five viewings of a property.  Two of the viewers received an email after the viewing, seemingly from a member of the agent’s staff, saying that their application was successful and they should pay five months’ rent into a bank account.  One of the viewers had this payment stopped by their bank and so contacted the agent, at which point it became clear that this was a scam, and the email they’d received was fraudulent. The agent’s IT specialist traced the scam email to someone based in South Africa and the police have been contacted. It is possible this situation arose through the fraudster obtaining access to their email account using one of the methods set out in the scenarios 1 or 2 above.

Please be alert to scams of this nature. Ensure that your computer systems are protected by up-to-date security software and ensure that any visitors to your office such as current/prospective landlord and tenant clients are not left unsupervised near any IT devices.

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