Singapore Police investigating rental scams that defrauded six groups of victims over S$30,000

Singapore Police investigating rental scams that defrauded six groups of victims over S$30,000

SINGAPORE — A landlord has been accused of collecting rent and deposits from over 30 groups of people since 2019 and then making various excuses not to rent out the property.

Multiple reports have been lodged against the “landlord” recently. The police are investigating a case involving a man who allegedly cheated more than $30,000 from six groups of victims in exchange for renting a flat in Jurong.

Shin Min Daily News, a local Chinese media outlet, reported that a 34-year-old accountant named Lin was one of the victims affected by a rental scam. She had posted a rental query in March and was contacted by a man named Alan, who offered her a four-room Housing Board flat.

“He explained that his decision to rent out the unit was due to his wife giving birth to a son in Vietnam, which added to his burden.”

After viewing the unit, Ms Lin decided to rent it and transferred $6400 for rent and deposit.

However, the landlord repeatedly postponed the move-in date after the signing of the contract, until the deadline of 1 May, when he informed Ms Lin that he would not rent out the unit.

Acting on her suspicions, Ms Lin went to the landlord’s house to demand an explanation and unexpectedly met another group of tenants downstairs, who were waiting with their luggage to move in that night.

‘Landlord’ told a different story to another victim

Another victim, a 25-year-old accountant named Hong, planned to rent a property with two colleagues, and the same landlord contacted them.

“The landlord claimed that his father had passed away, and he planned to move with his family to his father’s unit before deciding to rent out the property.”

Hong paid a deposit of S$2,300 for one month.

“The landlord originally said that we could move in one day early, but when we were ready to move in, he suddenly said that we couldn’t.”

After discovering more victims, Ms Lin later founded a Facebook group and learned that the total losses suffered by six groups of people were about S$30,000. They all filed police reports against the landlord.

‘Landlord’ kept postponing the handover with various excuses

In March this year, one of the victims came across a rental advertisement on Carousell, an online marketplace. The victim proceeded to transfer a sum of S$12,216.68 to the male landlord, which included payment for one month’s rent, two months’ deposit, and S$316.68 designated as “stamp duty.” The victim later filed a police report to document the incident.

Similarly, the landlord repeatedly postponed the move-in date and disappeared after the account was blocked.

Glenice Goh, another victim, shared on Facebook that she was asked to transfer S$3,000 to the landlord in March for the rental unit, but the handover was repeatedly postponed with various excuses.

Ms Goh had to look for a new rental unit as her previous landlord intended to sell his house. She found a nice unit on iLive SG and contacted the landlord, who told her that his visa to Vietnam was approved for four years and that he would fly over in mid-April to hand over the unit.

Nothing suspicious at first

“After verifying his IC and HDB ownership, and obtaining his consent to take a photo of his IC, we signed a one-year contract with him and transferred one month’s deposit plus one month’s rent in advance to him.”

“We also saw him submit our tenant information, and he even said that he would notify us once he purchased the plane ticket. There was nothing suspicious about it,” said Ms Goh.

Ms Goh shared that the landlord even offered them a two-year contract, but she declined.

In April, the landlord informed her that he had to postpone his flight due to his son’s hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

“When I asked if we could move in on 1 May, he replied confidently that we could.”

On the 17th of last month, the landlord texted Ms Goh to inquire about their move-in date.

She replied that the latest date was 30 April, as that was the last day of their current lease.

The landlord initially suggested they move in after Hari Raya but later said he could only hand over the unit mid-week. He promised not to delay.

On 29 April, Ms Goh messaged the landlord again, asking when they could move in. He replied that he was still doing some work on the unit and would hand it over to them as soon as possible. He also suggested refunding their payment if Ms Goh was worried.

On 30 April, the landlord messaged to say he needed a few more days and apologized.

However, as Ms Goh’s lease with the former landlord was ending on that day, she panicked and called the landlord, but he didn’t answer.

“Until I told him that if he didn’t reply, I would report him to the police, then he replied to me with “Go report ba. Give your account too I will refund.”

Ms Goh later complained about the matter to the police. Fortunately, Ms Goh was able to secure another new rental unit on 1 May with the help of friends and family.

Minister Sun Xueling announced that in 2022, the number of home rental scams via online platforms increased to 979 cases from 192 cases in 2021.

She also stated that the police are collaborating with online platforms to remove suspicious accounts and ads, and working with the Council for Estate Agencies to issue rental scam advisories on social media.


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