How it works:
- Opening: scammers use both newspapers and online sites to place adverts about vacant apartments at cheap prices.
- Set-up: if you make contact, you will be informed that due to high demand, you need to secure or book the apartment with a deposit. You are then allocated a day for viewing and given a contact phone number. On the actual day, you will discover no such apartment existed and even the “office” has been vacated.
- Other red flags: cheap prices, copy-pasted description, dodgy sounding reviews, difference in photos and Google Street View pictures, payment off platform (bank transfer, Western Union, MoneyGram – these are irreversible), overseas owner, details not forthcoming.
Places to beware:
What to do:
- Platform: use one with buyer protection rights: e.g. Booking.com (Frommer’s tests found it to have the best selection and rates).
- Due diligence: search online reviews and if apartment has listings across other platforms, check if they are consistent. Grill the owner by asking specific details or made-up details to test if he can call your bluff. Test him by requesting a visit by a local friend.
- Do not: pay in full upfront and off the platform.