Rental scam: Kulin family seeking new life left homeless

A family of four, including a child with autism and another with cerebral palsy, have been left homeless after attempting to rent a Mandurah property through a scammer posing as a police officer on Gumtree.

Harley D'Arcy, Louise Hall, their husky and two children traveled with a truck full of belongings from Wheatbelt town Kulin to Mandurah, with the hope of a fresh start and new job opportunities.

The pair signed a lease and paid a $1000 bond into a person named Ebony Richards’ bank account, who had responded to their add on Gumtree seeking a private rental in the area.

The woman, who communicated solely via email, claimed to be a Canberra police officer, gaining the family’s trust. 

“We had no reason not to trust her,” Ms Hall said. 

“She was telling us how busy she was, in and out of court. 

“We’re country people and didn’t expect someone to do something like this – it’s absolutely devastating.”

We’re country people and didn’t expect someone to do something like this – it’s absolutely devastating.

Louise Hall

Mr D’Arcy said the family quickly realised they had been duped after arriving at the Mandurah property.

“There was a house full of people at the home who had no idea what we were talking about,” he said.

“Police came and told us Ebony had never owned the property. We can’t get in touch with her anymore.”

The family have been left homeless, unable to put up bond for another rental.

This con has been around for many years where the scammers advertise rooms or properties to rent via websites like Gumtree.

Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard

They will be staying with family in Mandurah in the meantime. 

Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said this scam was unfortunately not uncommon. 

“This con has been around for many years where the scammers advertise rooms or properties to rent via websites like Gumtree,” he said.

“Usually it’s an exceptionally good deal with cheap weekly rates for a high-quality home and there will be a reason that you cannot view it or meet with the landlord.

“After email correspondence, which may include scans of fake documents to verify the landlord’s identity and ownership of the rental property, victims will be asked to transfer or bank deposit the first month’s rent and a bond.

“Arrangements for key pick-up, perhaps postal or express delivery, will be given.

“The keys never arrive and if they go to investigate the property they will find there are people already living there who have never heard of the landlord they have been dealing with.

“The victims are then left without accommodation and are often devastated by their monetary loss.”

For further information on rental scams visit the WA ScamNet website.