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How to avoid fraud

Avoid fraud

Rental frauds have become increasingly common during the last years in Sweden. Tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee for an accommodation that does not exist or cannot be rented.

This is especially common in cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Lund – where there accommodation shortage is growing simultaneously with the need. You can however learn to recognize and avoid fraud.

Different types of fraud

There are three main types of fraud (or scams) that you should watch out for. They come in slight variations and some might be more sophisticated than others, yet they all aim towards the same thing: to trick you into paying a deposit before you get access to the accommodation. Knowing how the fraudster works is essential in being able to recognize fraud and avoiding it.

1. Paying in advance for an apartment that does not exist

This is without a doubt, the most common type of rental fraud. In this case, the fraudster pretends to be a landlord. By claiming to be abroad for work (often UK, Ireland or Egypt) the fraudster will try to seal the deal online. To make you feel comfortable with this approach the fraudster will send you pictures of the apartment together with a copy of his/her supposed ID. Yet the pictures of the apartment and the ID are usually stolen.

The fraudster will also rapidly ask you to send him/her a copy of your passport/ID to “prepare the contract”. Professional fraudsters normally collect passports from fraud victims so that he/she can use them when trying to fraud other tenants.

After some emails back and forth, the fraudster (pretending to the be landlord) will ask you to pay a deposit in advance. The fraudster will suggest that you pay the deposit to a UK account or that you transfer the money by using a paying service like Western Union (as these services do not return your money in case of fraud). After the payment has been done the fraudster will disappear .

The warnings signs:

  1. The “landlord” is abroad and cannot schedule a viewing of the apartment.
  2. You are asked to pay the deposit through either wire transfer to the UK or Western Union.
  3. The landlord pushes to close the deal (fraud) quickly.
  4. Monthly rent is lower than market price (too good to be true).

2. Paying in advance for an apartment that does exist but cannot be rented

In this type of fraud you get to see the apartment. The fraudster (pretending to be the landlord) will after the initial contact schedule a viewing of the apartment. The aim of the viewing is to make you feel convinced about the “seriousness” of the landlord. He/she will show you the room/apartment and rapidly try to seal the deal by discussing moving date, deposit and rent.

You will be asked to pay the deposit and or rent in advance (usually in cash) before moving in. After the payment the fraudster will vanish and you will discover that he/she didn´t have the right to rent out the apartment.

This type of fraud is more sophisticated than the pure online deposit version and might be harder to recognize, but there are some signs that you could watch out for:

  • The landlord is eager to close the deal rapidly
  • It all seems a bit too good to be true (e.g. monthly rent is lower than the market price)
  • The landlord asks few or none of the regular landlord questions (like income, occupation, references)

Make sure to:

  • Never pay a deposit before signing a contract
  • Ask to see the landlords ID and make a quick google search to see if you find anything in his/her name (e.g. people who have reported fraud in relation to his/her name before).
  • Double check that the landlord’s ID matches the information stated in the contract

3. Key and payment but no apartment

This type of fraud is very similar to the one described above. However, in this case you might even receive the keys to the apartments once you’ve paid the deposit. First when you turn up at the apartment to move in you notice that your key doesn’t work and that the landlord is no longer contactable. Other tenants, that have been equally frauded, might also turn up with a key that doesn’t work.

Warning signs:

  • The fraudster (pretending to be the landlord) is pushing to close the deal quickly.
  • The fraudster will ask very little about you. You know a property is legit when the landlord wants to know everything about you as he/she has a personal interest in choosing the right tenant.
  • The fraudster will insist that you pay the deposit before signing the contract and/or ask you to pay in cash.
  • In case you sign the contract, he/she will ask you for your ID but will not show you his/hers own ID.
  • Monthly rent is lower than market price (too good to be true).

Are all services equally safe?

There are many services to find accommodation in Sweden. But not all of them are equally safe. Some services perform a pretty extensive fraud control while others do little or no control at all.

Online rental agencies

Online rental agencies manage the whole rental process and are probably the safest service on the market. They contact the landlord, check the property before renting it, and arrange viewings for potential tenants. They also provide assistance with the contract and the house insurance.

Online rental agencies:

  • Qasa (website in Swedish)
  • Samtrygg (website in Swedish)
  • Akademisk Kvart (a student service mainly for rooms, website in Swedish & English).

Rental websites

Rental websites provide a service where landlords can sign up and post property ads. These websites usually perform some sort of validation in order to avoid frauds, but are generally not as scrupulous as online rental agencies.

Ad websites

Ad websites are websites where anyone can post an ad. These websites usually have an accommodation section, where landlords post their properties. Blocket is probably the biggest provider of this service. The risk for fraud is higher due to the lack of control.

Yet it must be said that Blocket.se is working hard on tracking fraud and trying to keep their ads “clean”. They have started to gather more information about the landlord and they only allow landlords to pay with Swedish credit cards. Moreover, users can report the ad. If that happens, the ad will be removed in a few minutes. 

Social networks

Social networks, like e.g. Facebook groups, are a commonly used service to find accommodation. Landlords post their properties in these groups and people contact them, usually by sending PMs (private messages). However, these groups come with a pretty high risk.

The problem here is that social networks like Facebook do not perform any control on the rental offers, so, the responsibility of double-checking the legitimity of the rental are the admins and the users. Therefore, unless the rental post clearly looks like a fraud, the fraudster will get a lot of private messages before being reported and banned from the group.

Golden Rules to avoid rental fraud

  • Never pay the deposit before viewing and signing the contract.
  • Never pay in cash. Cash payments are difficult to track and it will be very difficult to prove that you  have actually paid if you have any problems with the landlord.
  • Never send your scanned id (passport). This id can be used in future frauds.
  • Always ask for the landlords ID, to see that the ID matches the information in the contract. The information you need is: name, surname, phone number and personal number (personnummer).
  • Googling name and surname of the landlord might help you find people who have reported this person in previous frauds. You might find this information in blogs and forums.

 

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