Attention: fraudulent online offers for accommodation
Searching for accommodation online is easy and convenient. Many landlords or estate agents offer rooms and flats online. With a few clicks, you receive the current offers along with photographs, the topography and other information. Frequently, these websites are used by young people who have just moved away from home and have little experience when it comes to searching for living quarters. And by people looking for a home in a major city where finding one is quite difficult. Scammers take advantage of this fact and advertise flats falsely in order to make money faster: a well-known scam that was also found increasingly on German websites offering accommodations. In October 2016 there are warnings of bogus estate agents scamming deposits of potential tenants.
Update: October 2016
The usual courses the scammers take:
1. Scammers act as alleged estate agents
The scammers rent a holiday home and put photographs, descriptions a. s. o. on an online portal for rentals. The potential tenants find the apartment on the online portal and agree upon an appointment with the alleged estate agent. After the visit they obtain an email informing them thus they will obtain the apartment and thus they should transfer the deposit. As they do so – the money is gone.
2. Scammers act as alleged landlords
By email, the alleged landlords claim that they are residing abroad and can therefore not be personally present to view the flat. They ask the interested party to pay a deposit in advance and in return they are promised the key to the flat. In case the flat is not to the liking of the interested party, they are promised the refund of their deposit in return for the key. Usually, the correspondence is in English. In order to transfer the money, an escort service with a company such as Western Union or DHL is asked for. Even if the deposit of the money is not part of the companies’ service, the familiar names alone inspire confidence. Usually, the scammer sends scans of another person’s I.D. in order to give the victim a false sense of security.
Use caution when looking for living quarters online and observe the following:
- Do not deliver any kind of payment in advance. Wait until the rental contract is signed and you have received the keys.
- In case the landlord claims that he is not able to be personally present and does not present a realtor or caretaker, caution should be exercised. A delivery of the key in return for a deposit is not common practice.
- Be sceptical when payment of the deposit should be done by international cash transfer.
- Be sceptical of a disproportionally low rent.
- Check whether the estate agent is reliable. Indications could be: “Maklerschein” (permission of estate agents acc. § 34 c Gewerbeordnung), correct and complete legal notice on the website, plenty (not only 1) flats and apartments in the product range.
- Do not send any scanned or copied I.D. papers to the landlord.
- Report dubious flat offers to the operator of the internet portal.
- When you have fallen victim of a scam, contact the police.