A hunt is underway for a "deplorable" scammer who duped customers out of thousands of dollars by pretending to rent out other people's holiday homes.
Victoria Police on Wednesday appealed for public help to find the man, who they allege hired out homes and apartments and purported to be the property owner.
He allegedly took prospective tenants through the properties in sham rental inspections, then did up fake agreements and told victims to hand over "bond" payments and one month's worth of rent.
Tenants then got a rude shock when they attempted to move in and were confronted by the legitimate owners or holiday-makers, police said.
Officers began investigating the man in September after a prospective tenant reported he was scammed out of a property on Queens Road at Melbourne, which he saw advertised on social media.
The property was not a long-term rental but short-stay accommodation, police said.
Officers alleged the fraudster has falsely advertised several high-rise properties and short-term rentals for lease.
"To have someone take advantage of others, especially during a rental crisis, is deplorable," Port Phillip Detective Senior Constable Demi Pascoe said.
"Prospective renters should only be dealing with licensed real estate agents and if something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.
"Anyone who has fallen victim to a scam of this nature is asked to come forward and report it to police so we can investigate."
Police released CCTV footage in a bid to help find the alleged fraudster, who they described as of Caucasian appearance, aged in his late 20s or early 30s, about 180cm tall, of medium build and with short dark brown hair and stubble.
The man had a Liverpudlian accent and was believed to frequent South Melbourne and St Kilda, police said.
Australian Associated Press