Renting an apartment

An unbelievably-priced apartment in a European capital has popped up in your search for a place to live.

Description of the fraud

After having found the apartment of your dreams at an excellent price, you contact the person who posted the listing. She responds immediately with a photocopy of her ID, explaining how she is the daughter of the owner who lives in another city in Europe, and that she prefers to communicate via email rather than through the website.

Straightaway she tells you that there are many people interested in the listing and that, as such, the first who puts down a payment for the first 3 months will get the apartment. You wire transfer the money to the owner’s bank account (who supposedly lives in another country), and you receive no more information from her. You contact the listing website, which informs you that they cannot be held liable, especially as the transaction took place over email.

Methods used by fraudsters

  • Proof of ownership (such as photos of the apartment, a photocopy of the seller’s ID, etc.) is designed to win over your confidence
  • The seller emphasises the popularity of this listing, making it seem as if you will lose your chance if you wait too long
  • Multiple countries are often implicated to cover the fraudster’s tracks. For example: the seller is based in Germany, holds French nationality, and has a Portuguese bank account

Contact on the Internet

  • The posted listing suggests putting individuals in contact either directly or via social networks
  • It’s up to the buyer to contact the seller of the listing

Advice to evade the fraud:

  • Don’t listen to a seller who emphasises the popularity of the listing. Take time to fully evaluate the information about the listing. If a seller pressures you, it can often be for ulterior motives.
  • Ask for a detailed description of the apartment, and avoid sellers who respond in vague terms or evade your questions
  • Verify the address and photos of the apartment. After looking up the apartment online, you could find that its address actually corresponds to the address of another apartment of an entirely different listing
  • Be wary of listings that seem too good to be true. Ask yourself if the listing makes sense, and compare prices on other websites
  • Don’t immediately trust a photocopy of an ID – it could easily be the ID of the last victim or an edited card from someone else
  • Prefer to pay via credit card rather than wire transfer, for wire transfer is irreversible. If the seller asks to use an unsecure but trusted “third party”, be cautious and choose a well-known service that can provide guarantees
  • NEVER send a photocopy of the front and back of your ID, or your debit card information

What to do if you have already paid?

  • A wire transfer is irreversible, but you should still contact your bank to find out if there are any possible solutions or options of recourse
  • If you’ve paid via an alternative payment method, immediately contact the service provider to dispute the payment
  • Once the payment has gone through, check if you can receive a chargeback
  • File a complaint with the police. If you do not know the name of the fraudulent interlocutor, you can file your complaint against X
  •  Market places and websites which show advertisements and connect venders and consumers are neither real estate agencies, nor intermediaries who can intervene in a rental contract. They cannot, in principle, be held responsible in case of complaints brought up between the tenant and the owner, unless they were aware of previous complaints and let the listing remain. Consult the website’s general sale conditions to see if they propose any solutions in case of a problem.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.