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Scam Alert! Fake agent lists on Zoopla and joins redress scheme

A high-profile London agency is asking the police and property industry bodies including Trading Standards to investigate a fake company posing under a similar name.

Base Property Specialists, run by well known agent Kristjan Byfield, has shown Estate Agent Today emails it has sent to the police and the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team regarding a company calling itself Base Property (London) Limited.

The ‘other’ Base property company has established accounts with the Property Redress Scheme redress service, the Tenancy Deposit Service and Zoopla. 

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It has also posted listings of properties on Zoopla which Byfield believes have been ‘lifted’ from the websites of other agencies; these properties were listed with what he calls “insanely below-market rate” prices.

Byfield has tracked down the originals to the websites of genuine agencies including Knight Frank, JLL and others. 

Earlier this week the real Base Property agency received around 250 telephone enquiries in just one morning after the false listings were posted, and before their removal by Zoopla. 

Byfield says further research has revealed images stolen from agency listings from London to Germany with fake online details.

“None of their staff appear to be real with the names not found in any professional searches and their headshots found on Unsplash, a free images website” he says.

“I understand that Zoopla have now removed the listings and removed/hidden the agency page and that PRS and TDS are conducting internal research in to the matter - but they are still fully active online.”

Some of the company details he found also proved to be false, including one director who was tracked down by Byfield but who knew nothing of the fake Base company.

Byfield’s agency has issued a ‘Cease and Desist’ legal letter and has now received what he describes as “a series of bizarre but bold emails from the fraudster.”

In a note to NTSELAT Byfield writes: “We have effectively lost two days of trade trying to resolve this issue. We have been bombarded with calls regarding the company bit have serious reservations/concerns that their intent is to defraud tenants of money for fake listings which is bad in itself. However given the trend of people associating that company with ours already, this could lead to huge damage to our customer/consumer reputation.”

Estate Agent Today has asked NTSELAT for its comments; although it cannot speak directly about the Base case, which is 'live and ongoing', it says it wishes to reassure agents that it takes such scams seriously and will investigate them.

  • Roger  Mellie

    Good luck getting the police to do anything. I'm 2 years down the line on a member of staff that stole a lot of money from us and we are currently to sum total of nowhere with it.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Zoopla acted quickly in first taking down the properties to further investigate (we were deluged with calls from people who had received the listing alert, couldn't reach the agent- so googled their name but found us). They quickly moved to investigate further and quickly removed the agent entirely. It is my understanding that TDS & PRS have acted similarly but their branding on the agent's site gives a perception of legitimacy. As I have explained to someone already- if they fool just one international/student tenant we could be taking @ £14k if they are asked to pay 6 months rent upfront or £24k of it's a year- and we all know plenty of legitimate tenancies that request that. Madness that a site like this cant be shut down faster pending investigation.

  • icon

    What I would like to know is how they got to list on Zoopla in the first place? Don't Zoopla do any kind of checks on the agents? Sorry but the fact that someone can set up all these fake accounts on the portal and elsewhere says to me those sites are at fault with their poor security.

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