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The online scammers renting out other people’s homes

A scam where fraudsters con would-be renters out of thousands of pounds by pretending to own properties has been exposed by estate agents.

Adverts for house sales are copied from legitimate websites and used in rental listings on online marketplaces.

But when people try to move in – after paying deposits and rental fees – they find out the property belongs to someone else.

Mary Whitbread, from Bournemouth, paid up after a virtual viewing but has now been left homeless and thousands of pounds out of pocket.

She said she only realised she had been scammed when she showed up to move in and found a “for sale” sign on the house.

Estate agent Phil Skorochod said the problem was becoming more widespread and was leaving people heartbroken.

He has urged police to take action.

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Video journalist: Ben Moore

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