How it works:
- Opening: the script is always the same. You come across an apartment an amazing price. That should be the first red flag – such apartments are almost never on sale as there is demand to match it. The trick these scammers use is to grab photos from for sale or for lease advertisements.
- Set-up: next, you make an enquiry and are told that the owner is overseas. As such, you cannot view the property and will have to collect the key at a DHL office at an airport or nearby. This is a second clear red flag – not being able to view and if an owner is out of the country, he should be using a local agent to help rent the place out!
- Losses: if you fall for it, he will ask for your personal particulars (identity theft) and next, make a payment for deposit, bond or upfront rent via wire transfer (he disappears after you do so).
Places to beware:
- Anywhere (online)
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.