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Flatmate scams

What flatmate scams look like and how they work.

The Set-Up

You’re looking for a room to rent.

The Hook

You see an ad for a room that sounds perfect. The landlord asks you to send a deposit and the first months’ rent straight away. You haven’t seen the room but it sounds great and you really need to find somewhere.

The Sting

The ‘landlord’ disappears with your money. And you still have nowhere to live.

What flatmate scams look like

The internet has made it very easy to advertise and look for a flat. But be wary. Flat-finding websites are fertile ground for scammers. There’s always a chance that the ad you respond to was placed by a scammer − or that you'll get a scammer answering yours.

Types of flatmate scam

Fake ads

You enquire about a room you’ve seen on a flat-finding website.

The landlord says that they’ve had huge interest. They ask for a bond and the first months’ rent upfront. They may even ask for copies of personal documents like your passport, driving licence or IRD number.

You ask to go round for a viewing. But for some reason the landlord puts you off. They may claim to be out of town or in hospital. They might send you photos of the flat instead. Or an address so that you can take a look from the outside.

Once you’ve handed over your money and documents, you find that there was no room. You’re back to square one. And worse still, have lost money.

Fake flatmates

Sometimes it’s the other way round. You place an ad to rent out your flat and a scammer responds. They’ll sound really interested in moving in. But, for some reason, they can’t come round for a viewing.

The scammer sends you money for rent and a bond – by cheque or a bank transfer. That's funny. It’s for more than you asked for.

The scammer is soon in touch to ask for a partial refund. They may ask you to forward money to another party – a travel agent, for instance.

After you’ve refunded the money, you’ll find that the payment is invalid. The cheque has bounced or the transaction has been reversed.

Protect yourself from flatmate scams

  • Be wary of people wanting to rent a room without seeing it first. Even if they claim to be overseas. Would you ever rent a room without looking at it?
  • Never send money before you’ve seen a room − even if rooms are being snapped up fast. Any genuine person would expect you to first visit the property. Be especially wary if you're asked to send money using a money wiring service like Western Union.
  • Be careful who you share your personal information with. Scammers can use your details to commit fraud under your name.
  • Never send personal, credit card or online account details through an email.
  • Report any attempted fraud or suspicious emails to the website the scammer is using. Many flatmate-seeking websites have a facility for this.
  • If you've received funds into your bank account that you suspect are illegal, contact your bank immediately.

Help protect others from flatmate scams

If you’ve been affected by a flatmate scam, please help us to warn others by reporting it to Scamwatch. Your personal details will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Report your scam here. 

Last updated 23 November 2012