Police are hunting a bogus landlord after a number of people were defrauded out of more than £30,000.
Between April 1 and last Friday, criminals advertised flats for rent in the London districts of Lambeth, Islington, Barnet, Kilburn and Ealing. The adverts were published on the Gumtree website.
A number of prospective tenants responded to the adverts and subsequently handed over large deposits.
When the new tenants arrived with their belongings on their moving-in dates, it became apparent that they had been victims of a scam.
The bogus landlord has given a variety of names including Adam Holt, Craig Myers, and Ashley Elliot, but all could be fake identities. He is described as a smartly dressed black man in his 30s with short black hair. He sometimes wears glasses.
He is also known to work with others – including a taller black man with a moustache and a black woman. All dress smartly in business attire.
Police are aware of six victims so far, but believe there may be more. Officers are advising potential victims to carry out some basic checks before handing over money.
Detective Constable Ross James, from Lambeth CID, said: “We are keen to identify this fraudster as soon as possible. Anyone with information about these crimes, or who recognises the man shown in the image, should call police or Crimestoppers.”
To provide information to police, call 101 and quote reference 1217609/15. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
In Islington, police are investigating what appears to be a separate bogus landlord case, the key difference being that the property was advertised on Zoopla through a letting agency.