A single mother from Catford experienced moving day hell when her so-called new landlord made off her £2,000 deposit, and never handed her keys over.

Hollie Watson, 24, was let down after packing up her home with seven-year-old son Tyler, however the landlord never did show up at the planned meeting at her meant to be new home.

Ms Watson, who lives in Bromley Road, Catford, told The News Shopper: “We are so distressed because our belongings are all boxed – we were ready to go”.

“He was supposed to be meeting us at the property to give us the keys and he didn’t show”.

“Financially we’re in a really difficult situation – for us it’s such a lot of money”.

“I think it is disgusting that this person thinks it is OK to take people’s money”

Miss Watson originally found the property in Wickham Road,  part of the Brockley conservation area, advertised on popular website Gumtree.

She was persuaded by the landlord to pay a deposit of £2,009.53 on May 1 after viewing the house and was set to move in the following weekend and a meeting was arranged to collect keys.

“It has been passed to Lewisham Police to be investigated.”

A Gumtree.com spokeswoman said: “We treat any fraudulent activity extremely seriously and we do everything possible to keep scammers from using the site”

How can you beat the scammers?

Due diligence is required, always.

Firstly, never hand over money to anyone without seeing proof of ownership.  It could be anybody’s property.  Just because a person has keys you cannot assume they own it.

Ask for proof of Identity.  A genuine landlord should not be too worried about proving who he is by showing a passport or driving licence.  This needs to be the same name as the person noted on land registry or any mortgage or title deed documents you have seen.

Do a land registry check.  It costs just £4 for a member of the public to check ownership details of any address in the UK.

Make sure you get a signed contract.  Without one it’ll be more difficult if you end up in court.

Be wary of anyone pressuring you to pay money.

Use an ARLA registered agent.  If dealing direct with landlords leaves you nervous, then use a registered agent, as they will be checking their landlords own the properties they are renting.