Updated: Apr 6
There has been a rise in property scams in Singapore in recent years, with scammers taking advantage of the city-state's hot real estate market. These scams often involve fake property listings, fraudulent transactions, and identity theft, among other tactics. One common tactic is to offer properties at prices significantly lower than market value, luring unsuspecting buyers into making large deposits or paying hefty fees upfront.
To avoid becoming a victim of fraudulent online property listings and scammers impersonating property agents who place fake advertisements on property listing platforms, it is important to exercise caution and diligence. With that said, we bring you a comprehensive guide on how to stay vigilant when buying or renting a property.
View Listings on Reputable Sites
When searching for a home, one of the initial and essential steps is to evaluate property listings. With the advent of the digital age, potential homebuyers usually explore these listings on websites to identify appropriate units. To check if the landlord or seller is the legitimate owner, ask to see the property ownership information from agents. This can be obtained from Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
However, alternative platforms such as online marketplaces, social networking, or messaging platforms are increasingly being used for property listings. It is important for prospective buyers and tenants to exercise caution while dealing with listings on such platforms and take additional steps to verify their authenticity.
Verify Agent’s Identity and Track Record
As impersonation crimes continue to rise, it is crucial to take measures to protect yourself from falling victim to such scams. One effective way is to cross-check the property agent's details in the property listing with the Council for Estate Agencies' (CEA) Public Register.
To do this, you can quickly search for the property agent's profile page in the CEA Public Register using their advertised phone number. If the search does not yield a result, it may indicate that the phone number is not registered with CEA by any property agent and that the advertisement may be fraudulent. To be doubly sure, if you find the property agent's profile on the CEA Public Register, you can contact them directly using the phone number provided in the register to verify the property listing.
The CEA Public Register also enables you to verify the agent's registration status and the validity of their registration number. It is mandatory for all property agents in Singapore to be registered with the CEA through a licensed property agency, and each registered agent has a unique CEA registration number, such as R123456A. Note that it is illegal for any individual to carry out estate agency work without a valid registration, and some scammers may use profiles of inactive or expired agents to evade detection.
Don’t Pay Anything Before Physical Viewing of the Property and Agreeing To Transaction Terms
It is advisable to refrain from making any payment until you have physically inspected the property and come to an agreement on the terms of the transaction. Best be cautious if a property agent requests payment or a deposit before arranging a viewing or meeting in person.
A legitimate agent would typically schedule a physical viewing for interested parties to inspect the property in person. Once both the landlord and tenant agree on the lease terms after viewing the property, a letter of intent will be issued for the payment of a security deposit. The standard security deposit is usually equivalent to one month's rent for a one-year lease or two months' rent for a two-year lease.
Use Verifiable Payment Methods and Understand If Your Agent Can Handle Monies for Certain Transactions
If a property agent requests for a cash payment as monthly rental or deposit for the lease of an HDB flat, or down payment for the sale and purchase of properties, this should raise some concerns. Property agents are not authorized to handle certain types of funds.
To avoid disputes and protect yourself, it is recommended to use verifiable payment methods such as crossed cheques or bank transfers. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that the payment is made directly to the landlord.
Renting or buying a property can be a complex process that requires careful consideration and attention to detail. It is crucial to be vigilant and protect yourself from potential scams or fraudulent activities that could result in significant financial losses or legal disputes. Remember to always prioritize your safety and take necessary precautions when dealing with property agents or landlords.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us should you have more questions!