Several property agents have found themselves victims of impersonation in the latest scam involving deposits to view homes.
At least 10 agents had their names and photographs stolen by scammers, who then used these credentials to convince potential homebuyers to pay money to secure an appointment for viewing.
The Straits Times spoke to five property agencies which provided these figures and raised their concerns about the latest scam.
Last month, the police had warned about this scam.
They said that since January, at least 144 people had fallen victim to this scam with losses amounting to $190,000.
PropNex, the largest property agency in Singapore, with 11,209 agents, said it had issued a companywide memo so its agents can inform others about the verification steps to take before making a transaction.
A PropNex spokesman said: “The whole industry is affected by these people who impersonate salespersons, collect deposits and disappear.”
ERA Realty, which has 8,443 agents, said scammers impersonated six of them.
It added: “We keep our agents updated constantly of the scammers’ tactics as we know them. But as their job involves high visibility, it is very difficult to hide their identity.”
Mr Steven Tan, chief executive of OrangeTee & Tie, said his agency organised a dialogue on March 24 to educate its agents on the legal and compliance matters regarding scams.
Mr Tan believes the impersonators are targeting first-time tenants who are unfamiliar with how real estate agents operate. Agents do not require a deposit from potential buyers to view homes.
Huttons Group said three of its 4,300 agents were also victims of impersonation and it has recorded a video warning its agents of such rental scams.
The video also teaches clients how to verify the identity of property agents using the Council for Estate Agencies website.
Property listing platforms said only certified and licensed agents are authorised to buy subscriptions to list homes on their websites.
Real estate portal 99.co said subscribers who are not licensed or have their licences due for renewal will not have their listings reflected in the website’s search results.
PropertyGuru said that in 2022, it blocked four fraudulent accounts after detecting suspicious details in the trial account creation process. It declined to reveal details for security reasons.
PropNex agent Desmond Tan, 60, is relieved such measures are in place after his clients informed him fake name cards with his photo were circulating on WhatsApp.
Mr Tan, who is single, said: “I was very disturbed when I heard they were using my profile picture.
“As property agents, we have to care about our reputation. Angry customers have called my company saying the entire agency is a scam, but after I explained to them, then they understood they had been cheated.”