People are being warned about a rise in bogus landlords who take money for rental properties they do not even own.
Reports show a 92 per cent rise in the scam which could leave renters out of pocket and without accommodation if they become victims.
The swindle, known as Rental Fraud, sees would-be tenants pay upfront fees after being tricked by online adverts.
People often pay rent and deposits to bogus landlords who have shown them around homes which aren’t theirs to rent.
Recent studies have shown incidents of the scam to have risen by 92 per cent in two years with an with an estimated 315,000 people conned out of an average of £2,394.
Up to a million people could have become victims with the national cost of rental fraud estimated at £755m.
Ajay Jagota of KIS Lettings, is warning house hunters to be on their guard.
He said: “With more and more people needing rental properties more and more people are becoming victims of rental fraud and the sad truth is that if you aren’t careful you could end up out of pocket and out on the streets.
“Never hand over a penny until you have visited a property in person– and if you have any suspicions that the person showing you around isn’t who they say they are tell the police or trading standards immediately.
“The only way you can really protect yourself against becoming a victim of scams like this is to only rent through a reputable lettings agent – and to always remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“It’s not only renters who are at risk, rental fraud is a real danger for landlords too.
“It can often involve the scammers breaking into empty properties or even cutting their own keys to your rental home after masquerading as possible tenants. This could mean all sorts of damage to your property or your reputation so it’s critical that your security systems are up to scratch.”
If you are a landlord or a tenant and need legal advice call PM Law in Sheffield on 0114 2965444.