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Scammers are increasingly targeting desperate renters on social media, with one woman losing $3200 in an elaborate fake Airbnb ruse.

South African expat Fiona Mathebula found herself urgently looking for a Sydney rental a few months ago in mid-October, when her flatmate needed to move back overseas.

“I got really desperate looking for a place to stay,” Mathebula said.

READ MORE: eBay scammers cash in on ‘rare’ $2 coin

In a tight market – Sydney recorded a rental vacancy rate of just 1.2 percent in October according to SQM Research – Mathebula said her lack of rental history put her at an immediate disadvantage.

Mathebula moved to Australia for work in May last year, and the apartment she was vacating was not leased under her name.

“I would go and see apartments and there would be 10 other people waiting,” she said.

“They were all people who had been in Australia for a long time and had a better chance than I did.”

With no luck at the packed inspections, Mathebula turned to Facebook marketplace, where she saw an ad listed for an attractive one-bedroom apartment in the inner city suburb of Haymarket.  

The apartment was available for 12 months at $420 a week, the advertisement said.

“It seemed affordable, a good price,” Mathebula said.

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