Northern Rivers residents are warning of a rental scam.
Northern Rivers residents are warning of a rental scam.

Desperate renters targeted in new scam

WITH demand for rental properties surging on the Northern Rivers, scammers are taking the opportunity to fleece hundreds of dollars from unsuspecting would-be renters.

One man has told his story in an effort to stop others becoming victims.

During his search for a room in Byron Bay, Antonio Vassallo was stripped of $500 after falling for a potential scam over Facebook, involving a woman who said she had a house for rent.

"I was looking for a room (in Byron), and this person told me (they) have a house here in Byron Bay, but she can not show it because she is not in town, so she sends me the pictures saying: 'Send me money and I will make you keys and contract via mail'," Mr Vassallo said.

"I sent the $500 and she tells me that, for her lawyer, is not enough to start the contract so I do not receive keys and nothing, she doesn't gave me the address.

"I try to call her but she closes the phone calls saying she is deaf and I can not talk to her.

"At this point I want my money back but she takes time and does not send them.

"One day she says that she has her cousin one day waiting for them from her friend."

His post in Byron Bay Rental Sleuth attracted comments from six other people claiming the same woman using the name 'Marianna B Gorbenko' (whose Facebook profile has since been hidden or removed) had messaged them about the room she was offering.

Allie Vandervalk was also looking for a room when she received a message from the same Facebook account with photos and a $250 a week price tag.

"She said it would be just me at the house as she lives in Perth. She said I had to send her the bond and rent and then she would mail the keys to me," Ms Vandervalk said.

"I said I'd like the keys first and then would send her money. She refused and I said 'I don't trust her' and she proceeded to say she was deaf and a Christian and quoted from the Bible saying she'd never cheat or take my money.

"Then when I asked about banking details she claimed she was going through a divorce and had to send the money to her cousin or brother and wouldn't send me the exact address of the place she was supposedly renting."

On their website SCAMwatch warns prospective tenants to be wary when responding to rental properties advertised on the net where the 'owner' makes various excuses as to why you can't inspect the property but insists on an upfront payment for rent or deposit.

A "classified scam" is where scammers will pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads on classifieds websites, in print classifieds, and may approach you through email or on social media platforms.

This type of scam has seen more than $2.1 million lost in 2018.

Warning signs: What to watch out for

  • Too good to be true offers.
  • Ongoing excuses as to why the property cannot be viewed, such as the owner is overseas.
  • Securing the property requires an up front fee via money transfer.
  • The prospective landlord lives overseas.

More information at

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