/ Money

Scam watch: £1,400 lost to property deposit fraud

This month’s scam watch saw the loss of £1,400 to a property deposit fraudster. Here’s how it was done, and what you need to watch out for.

While living overseas, the victim of this scam was offered a job in London, so was on the lookout for accommodation without being able to visit the UK.

They submitted an enquiry form to ‘london-citybaseapartments.co.uk’ and were asked to pay a £1,400 deposit by bank transfer to secure a flat.

But that was the last they heard. They called and emailed many times to no avail, so went on to report the matter to their bank and asked for a refund.

Contacing the bank

We asked their bank, Lloyds, whether it planned to refund them. It told us:

“We have a great deal of sympathy for the victim of the scam, and took immediate action to attempt to recover the money as soon as we were alerted. Unfortunately, by this time no funds remained in the account”

Paying by credit or debit card would have given them much stronger protection.

Our advice is to make major payments by card wherever possible.

They made the payment just before most UK banks adopted a voluntary code on dealing with scams, which sadly means they won’t benefit from the more robust rules on who gets a refund.

The account that received the money was with Halifax Bank, also part of Lloyds. This meant Lloyds was able to shut it down and report the account holder to fraud prevention database Cifas.

London Citybase Apartments failed to respond to us, and the site has since been taken down.

Have you ever been instructed to pay for something by bank transfer? Did alarm bells start to ring?

Let us know what happened, and help us make others aware of scams like this.


This comment was removed at the request of the user

Unfortunately these days its becoming nearly impossible to tell which letting agents you can trust unless it’s one of the big established bricks and mortar brands like Winkworth, Foxtons, etc.

Yes, I was instructed to pay something by bank transfer recently. I had a carpenter quote me some repair work on my shed and he wanted me to make a deposit £450 upfront for materials. I realise it’s often customary to make a deposit to cover materials, but this was 64% of the total price, and there’s no way the materials would have cost more than £200 (in my opinion). This was a big red flag, so I simply cut him off.

If a scammer can take a fraudulent payment through a legitimate bank account, without valid details being available at that bank issuing the account to track the individual or company, surely that should constitute a regulatory compliance failure on the part of the bank and the bank should have some accountability? The fact that the funds have subsequently been moved to another account, wherever it is, shouldn’t prevent the identity of the person/company accessing the fraudulent funds being known, and at the very least the account being closed.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

John F says:
1 October 2019

I have been trying to sell my boat. One person kept on cancelling viewing dates and asking for my bank details to transfer a deposit of £500 to secure the purchase. The final communication was when I said that he could send me a deposit cheque in the post.

I suspect that if monies were transferred they would have been in excess of £500 maybe £5000 and the excess would have been requested to be returned. My thoughts it might been a money laundering attempt.