Renters and buyers looking for real estate in Dubai are still at risk of being scammed by criminals hoping to profit from ‘open’ or bogus properties, industry professionals have warned.
Wannabe tenants rushing to find a home or looking for ‘bargain’ deals are the most at threat, experts said, and advised individuals to proceed with caution.
“As activity in the property market has slowed over the past year or so, scamming activity has slowed, but scammers are still very common,” said Renan Bourdeau, managing director of propertyfinder.ae website.
“Often scammers will locate ‘open’ properties – those with no keys and remaining unlocked – and create adverts for the property, listing it much more cheaply than the market price.
“During the viewing, they put pressure on the tenant for a large deposit and subsequently disappear after the money has been paid.”
Sites which allow free listings from individuals and ‘agents’ who are not RERA registered are much more likely to become platforms for fraudsters, he added.
Advertisements in newspapers and on free listings sites, which include super-cheap properties along with just mobile numbers, should be treated with suspicion, he said.
Last month, Dubizzle sent a warning message out to all users signed up to the site, urging them not to send any money via the web.
The email, entitled ‘Important scam warning information’, said the website made every effort to detect fraudulent advertisers, but occasionally, some did “slip through the net”.
“DON'T SEND MONEY TO ANYONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES,” it said.
“Scammers will try anything to sound legitimate so you'll send them money.
They'll say they've just moved back to the UK, they'll pose as a company, they'll even pretend to be Dubizzle! Don't believe it.”
Analysts say those searching for apartments or villas can avoid being scammed if they make it a habit only to work with reputable estate agencies and developers.
They also advise property seekers to gain some knowledge of the market and average prices for rent or purchase in certain areas, before looking for a new home.
“Where you are dealing with sellers, make sure all of the documents are in place like title deeds, passport copies, clearance letters and any other property related documents,” said Tom Bunker, a Dubai-based investment consultant at Cluttons.
“Always be wary of agents trying to twist your arm or pressure you into buying or renting. Avoid agents who are trying to maximise their commissions.”