SINGAPORE – At least 997 people here have lost a total of $3.9 million since January after they fell victim to scammers posing as property agents, the police said on Friday (Aug 26).

There has been a resurgence of scammers impersonating legitimate property agents and asking victims for payment to secure the rental of a unit before viewing the property, according to the police advisory.

The police said victims would typically respond to an online property listing and initiate a conversation with the scammer via WhatsApp using the contact numbers in the fake online listing.

During the conversation, the scammer posing as a registered property agent would convince the victim of his credentials by sending a picture of the property agent’s business card and pictures or videos of the property to be leased.

The scammer would then request for the victim’s personal details to prepare the lease agreement.

When victims asked if they could view the property, the scammers would claim that the landlord was unavailable. To add an air of legitimacy, scammers would send a copy of a lease agreement with the name and NRIC of the purported owner of the unit to the victims for signature.

After signing, victims would be instructed to make payment for various reasons such as rental deposits, stamp duty, or other fees to secure the rental.

They would only discover that they had been scammed after the scammer ceased contact with them or when they reached out to the legitimate property agents through other means.

The police advised members of the public to adopt precautionary measures such as verifying the legitimacy of a property listing.

They can do so by liaising with a property agent using only the agent’s phone number registered on Council for Estate Agencies (CEA)’s Public Register. Members of the public may check whether a property agent is registered with the CEA by searching for the agent’s phone number on the CEA Public Register.

If the search does not lead to the property agent’s profile page, it means that the property agent has not registered that phone number with the CEA and the listing may be a scam.

The public can also contact the agent’s property agency to verify the authenticity of the listing.

Members of the public are also urged to beware of calls with the “+” prefix which originate from overseas, not to make any payments before a property viewing, and not to disclose personal information, credit card and bank details or passwords, including one-time passwords (OTPs), to anyone.

Anyone with information related to such scams can call the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit an online report at this website.