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See a Rent London Flats Scam in Action

Scam Studios

Although I have written about this scam before, the websites seem to be up and running again so I thought that I would show you some scamming websites in operation, how professional they can look, and the signs which give them away. You can also see for yourself the mechanism by which the scammers set up their traps.

The sites feature descriptions and photographs of real flats which have been stolen off genuine websites, and then put together in an impressive looking fiction. They target people who won’t be viewing the flat – the serviced apartment market.

Advertisements are run, most typically on a free to advertise directory, which direct enquiries to the website which has been established to present the non-existent flats.

Two such websites are:

Scammers Website 1

Scammers Website 2

You can look up the details of the owners of websites on the internet  Scammer 1 Scammer 2 , and hence I was able to establish that unsurprisingly these two websites are in fact owned by the same person, and that this person owns 19 domains (sadly I have to spend $559.92 to find them out).

There is no doubt that the owner of these websites has given false information to the website host, they have been registered by:

Abraham Isaac
31 Queen Anne Street Marylebone
London, London W1G 9DL

Whereas there is actually a Doctor’s surgery at that address:

Dr. Leonard M Selby
31 Queen Anne Street
Marylebone
London
W1G 9HT

The phone number given on the website starts 070 ( 07023089852 ) – calls made to 070 numbers are anonymously transferred, and to rub salt in the wound – the caller pays the charges for the transfer!

These mobile-style personal numbers (beginning 070) give you fantastic flexibility for your business at no cost. 07-K numbers include free call forwarding to UK mobiles, UK landlines and landlines in over 180 overseas countries. This flexibility ensures that they are a perfect additional tool for roaming business people or employees ‘away from base’ – as well as for staff back at the main office. Customers dialling from the UK will have their calls diverted automatically at no cost to you.

Always ask for a fixed landline number or at least a UK mobile number if you are looking for a genuine transaction.

If you phone the scammer’s number or reply to their Ad. they will claim to be

Mr A. Rosso

Great British Homes

963 Fulham Rd London SW6 5JJ
Tel: +44 702 406 8625

It’s a clever address to give as there did used to be a genuine property company at that address once but as can be seen from Streetview, they have vacated the premises .

So there you have a genuine scam in operation.

  • Scam Properties are a Bargain. If it seems too good to be true – it is.
  • Only deal with established businesses. Check out the address. Look for a working Landline Number, if there is only a number forwarding phone number move on.
  • If it’s a business it won’t be advertising using free ads on Gumtree, Craigslist, et al
  • Only pay by a reversible method (Credit Card, Paypal).
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London Holiday Rental Flats, & Serviced Apartments – Spot the Scam

The Citizens Advice Bureau Logo.

Image via Wikipedia



When you are renting for a short visit you are most likely going to be renting blind, going off an internet description. Scammers take advantage of this and sadly every week a new visitor to London turns up to find that the property that they have paid for doesn’t exist.

Only the other week I received this question:

I am looking to book a holiday apartment for 9 days during August
I have found a selection of lovely apartments within our budget and just wanted some feedback seeing as the landlord/agent who we are dealing with has stated no viewings are available and they ask for 75% of total rent/deposit to be paid up front.
Here is the website

http://unitrusthomeservices.com/

They advertise most of them on Gumtree also but this is the place to handle the booking.

My answer was as follows:

Scam Property is always a steal of a bargain, genuine property just cannot compete on price. This Studio is an absolute bargain. To give you an indication the market leader for serviced Studios in Central London is Dolphin Square who charge £185/night. We compete with them by offering a similar product at half the price – which is in itself an absolute bargain. This studio is in one of the most exclusive addresses there is and is offered at 1/3rd of our price, or 1/6th of the going rate. That screams scam, before you even look hard.

The website looks very genuine, & most impressive. However the phone number is not a landline number but an 070 number forwarding service, and the website domain was registered less than a month ago (5th July).

Personally my interest would end at this point. But you might like to dig further, especially if they are prepared to take payment by some protected service such as Credit Card.

The website was registered by:

Abraham Isaac
31 Queen Anne Street Marylebone
London, London W1G 9DL

There is actually a Doctor’s surgery at that address:

Leonard M Selby
31 Queen Anne Street
Marylebone
London
W1G 9HT

Tel: 020-7636-5250
Business Type: Doctors (General Practitioners)

Sorry to spoil your holiday.

Sadly the message was followed soon after by another reply as follows:

Sorry I have to say that this “unitrusthomeservices” has tricked us.

The past Tuesday we arrived london from Madrid (Spain). We had seen this fantastic flat on Gumtree and it liked us. We booked it for three weeks and they asked us to make the reservation with a money transfer to an account from Halifax, it was 560 pounds. Well, we arrived london and tried to contact the person that e-mail us from unitrust. No answer. We tried with the number in the website and nothing. We have gone to the police station for two days and they have said we should go to the Citizens Advice Bureau, anyway they have taken the address and the name of the person from unitrusthomeservices.
After three days walking about Police Station, hotels and agencies of lettings we have actually rent a room on a shared flat and can be relaxed.

So if you are thinking of renting a London Flat from abroad bear in mind the following points:

  • Scam Properties are a Bargain. If it seems too good to be true – it is.
  • Only deal with established businesses. Check out the address. Only deal with a working Landline Number, if there is only a mobile or number forwarding phone number move on.
  • If it’s a business it won’t be advertising using free ads on Gumtree, Craigslist, et al
  • Only pay by a reversible method (Credit Card, Paypal).
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    Emergency Short Term Accommodation for Travellers in London

    Here’s a brilliant idea, & a demonstration of British generosity and kindness to strangers and foreigners. Spareroom.co.uk is a website which specialises in advertising rooms for lodgers in a homeowner’s property, and it has been flooded with offers after the website posted a request to users asking if they would be willing to offer their spare rooms to stranded travelers until the UK’s airports reopened. Hundreds of homeowners throughout the UK have been contacting flat and house share website to offer their spare rooms on short-term lets to people who have been unable to fly home because of the continuing Icelandic volcano ash cloud drama.

    With the majority of major airports across the UK still closed, and with no clear end in sight, thousands of stranded holidaymakers and people on business trips, have been forced to extend their stays. For many visitors, they are faced with mounting costs for every additional day they have to remain in the UK. The situation is particularly bad for people stuck in Central London, where hotel room rates are extremely high and there is a scarcity of available rooms. Central London room rates are typically around £80 to £100 a night, which means an extra week stay at £100 a night could cost one person an additional £700.

    With the average private room rent in London on average £134 a week, by staying in a spare room for a week rather than a hotel, stranded visitors could save at least 81% on accommodation costs. Pimlico Flats rent short term Studio Double Flats for £600/week which is about half the local rate, but we don’t have any availability until next week. Click on the logo to go the the page Spare Room have created to deal with the disaster

    Spare Room

    Spare Room

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    London Tube & Bus Fares 2009

    Does anyone else find London Transport Fare publications difficult to work out? I think this is all anyone needs to know for travelling on London Tube or Bus. It certainly puts forward the argument for living in Zone 1 …… did I mention that Pimlico is in Zone 1?
     
     
     

    Bus fares in 2009

    Adult

    Single journey (on 1 bus or tram) paid using Oyster card (at all times)

    £1.00

    Single journey (on 1 bus or tram) paid by cash

    £2.00

    Oyster daily price cap (if using buses/trams only, paying using Oyster card)

    £3.30

    One day bus pass (printed ticket)

    £3.80

    7 day bus/tram pass

    £13.80

    1 month bus/tram pass

    £53.00

    1 year bus/tram pass

    £552.00

     

    Tube fares in 2009

    Oyster

    Oyster Off-Peak

    Cash

    Zone 1

    £1.60

    £1.60

    £4.00

    Zone 2

    £2.20

    £1.60

    £4.00

    Zone 3

    £2.70

    £2.20

    £4.00

    Zone 4

    £2.80

    £2.20

    £4.00

    Zone 5

    £3.70

    £2.20

    £4.00

    Zone 6

    £3.80

    £2.20

    £4.00

     

    Travel Card (Bus & Tube) in 2009

    7 Day

    Monthly

    Annual

    Zone 1

    Included

    Included

    Included

    Zone 2

    £25.80

    £99.10

    £1032

    Zone 3

    £30.20

    £116

    £1208

    Zone 4

    £36.80

    £141.40

    £1472

    Zone 5

    £44.00

    £169.00

    £1760

    Zone 6

    £47.60

    £182.80

    £1904

    Bedsit Available for £500 – Zone 1 SW1 ticks the boxes!

    The only Landlord to be letting Central London accommodation at such affordable prices.

    Tomorrow it will go out to the agencies, but for the next 24 hours the only people to know about this room are people reading this Blog! It’s available from 20th December. Either £500 for the 2 weeks over Xmas & New Year, or £500 pcm for 6 months from 20th Dec.

    The very large Ground Floor Room has an en suite kitchen (Oven/Hob, Fridge, Sink) & shares 3 Toilets, & Bathrooms with 10 other Rooms. The house is tenanted with professional central London workers, & the common parts are serviced daily & cleaned weekly. The house is a recently refurbished stucco fronted property in the Pimlico Conservation Area.

    It is suitable for a professional working in Central London, student or short term visitor, after value for money.

    Property Rights – Who has the right to live on Fuerteventura?

    We are in Fuerteventura (the center of nudism – but before you get interested I only said that to get Google’s attention, & my clothes have been firmly secured to my body) having a week winter break – you would be very happy here, trust me.

    Its nice to have a winter break to stop the long nights getting to you. The Hotel is lovely – & we had a long 6 hr walk yesterday – it’s how I like it not too hot, but still sunny. Last night we had front row seats for “The 4 Tops” some nice old 70s music – I had forgotten how good they were. We got up & danced & then I got up on stage to dance with them. My wife said that I upstaged them – but they didn’t seem to mind too much. Anyway – I seem to have become a bit of a celebrity in the hotel, several people have approached me & one is suggesting a petition to get me in Jon Seargent’s place in Strictly Come Dancing.

    Today we hired bikes & cycled along a track that runs along the North coast from Corralejo West towards El Cotillo. From a property perspective it gave interesting lessons & thoughts about the evolution of property ownership in society & history.

    El Cotillo

    Initially the track ran past a few homes that couldn’t be described as more than shacks – generally made from driftwood, pallets, anything else washed up, obviously lacking power & water. One had a whole gang of young men practicing their Stilt-walking & Juggling (very impressive they were too!) outside a rusted & long dead Mercedes Mobile Home. Presumably the occupants don’t own the land, don’t pay taxes, & live outside recognised “society”. They have the joy of an independent life & are beholden to no one but their god.


    View Cycle to Majanicho in a larger map

    The next shack had dogs locked in large cages outside, ropes marking the limits of the property, & a semblance of order cleanliness & care. Further along the coast was a home which was well painted, had TV aerials & so presumably a generator somewhere, chickens ran wild, a dog stood guard, the shack faced onto a perfect natural harbour, with its own private beach. A stack of sunbeds showed that the owners boasted a level of lifestyle that we all aspire to. Next we came across a shanty town – about 20 dwellings in similar style (cobbled together from detritus or caravans) but arranged with a street. I scolded the Mrs. for running the red traffic light! (joke). Some of the houses/caravans had set up large plastic containers which held water on piles of rocks, piped by hosepipes to their home.

    Finally we came to Majanicho – the third millennium’s Iron Age Village, & obviously of enough significance to feature on the map. I suspect that again the occupiers have no property right, & have just built a home in a suitable place. But what a lovely lifestyle, every home boasted a BBQ, table A perfect natural harbour had 3 tiny fishing boats moored, & a beach of perfect white sand meant that just had to halt & take in the sun. Each of the houses was well maintained & painted, though most of the structures resembled those kit concrete garages that used to be sold in the 1970s – again there were about 20 homes arranged in a crescent around the beach & harbour – several with generators & TV aerials, but now things turned surreal.

    El Majanicho

    El Majanicho

    Glancing up onto the hillside one could see a tarmaced road & street lighting. Streetlighting? – we are standing in a beautiful community devoid of modern life, & certainly no mains electricity, yet 50 yards away there is a modern road with street lighting!

    We cycled up the hill to investigate, finding the going made easier by the aforementioned tarmac road which stretches into the distance & over the horizon of the Caldera Hondo. There we found a modern version of the triumphal arch announcing to the world “Origio Mare” and all along the hillside we can see hundreds & thousands of villas – a modern town, but somehow devoid of life. We cycled through the arch & down the town ring road, up into the center of town. Line after line of identical, beautiful villas, all with roof terraces, clustered around communal swimming pools & tennis courts, each one neatly numbered with an immaculate garden. But just like some strange 1960s Science Fiction film it seemed that the Triffids had come & devoured the occupants. The house numbering went up to at least 1150 – so that town should have had at least 4000 occupants, but in fact it had less than Majanicho – it didn’t even have a dog.

    An investigation on the internet reveals that the development has been going for 5 years and has had it’s fair share of controversy. Websites imply that people have been buying places there for 4 years, I don’t know about that, all I can say is – trust me, I cycled round the place today, it is dead, no one lives there. Zero people, zero cars parked, nobody, nothing, nada. I promise.

    What madness is it that builds a town & then doesn’t inhabit it? I haven’t investigated yet, but I suspect when I do I will find the dead hand of an EC grant, or the cruel blow of the Credit Crunch behind those 1200 empty homes.

     

    It leaves me wondering which life is more logical – the life of the free spirit who makes his home on land that no one else is claiming, out of the flotsam & jetsam rejected by the world, or the power of science & engineering which can build a town of modern comfort & technology, & then shut it up in mothballs.

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    VACANCIES

    To View please phone Phil on 07788 370528

    July 2015

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    1 Bed Studio Flat £1000 pcm

    2 Bed Flat £1800 pcm

    Short stays £150/Night
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