Just thinking about moving abroad to a new city, finding housing and settling in feels like quite an adventure! Living in a new place can produce its fair share of complications, but in the end, whether you’re relocating to study at a university, take on an exciting internship or begin a new career at a startup, it’s all completely worth it! You’ll meet interesting new people, try foods you’ve only seen on TV and find yourself immersed in eye-opening cultures. If anything, moving abroad is life-changing! Sounds like fun yet?
A huge part of taking off to another city will be choosing the ideal room or apartment, and this is also where you’re going to allocate the largest portion of your budget. However, this can also be the area where things can get a little complicated, especially with the rise in scams when renting housing abroad.
Unfortunately, you read that correctly. Scammers have come up with all sorts of ways to cheat young people who are moving abroad, and it doesn’t seem as if they’ll be stopping anytime soon. However, you can educate yourself on the methods that they use, so that you always know what to look for when you’re dealing with landlords and rental agreements. Here are a few ways that scammers try to take advantage of potential tenants, and how to avoid them.
While Facebook can be a great source for gaining information on choosing a great city for digital nomads or finding groups of other like-minded expats, you should never attempt to work out a rental on this or any other social media platform. Scammers on Facebook are some of the most successful when it comes to international housing, especially when you are trying to avoid paying the high commissions charged when working with a real estate agent.
While there are numerous scammers on Facebook running all sorts of online cons, there are a few telltale signs to watch out for during your search.
Even though there are signs posted at Western Union or your money-transfer company of choice, you’d be surprised how many people of all ages and walks of life transfer funds to a complete stranger. Even if you have a rental agreement, keep in mind that it is reduced to a meaningless piece of paper when you’re dealing with a scammer.
Also, be wary if you are ever asked to mail a prepaid Visa to a P.O. Box. The same rule applies. A real landlord will accept a variety of payment methods and would never ask you to wire money.
Although this saying may be a bit old, scammers are still finding new, creative ways to make you forget its relatability. Scammers may post listings that are a hundred euros lower than other properties, just to get your attention. If you question the price, they typically fabricate all sorts of excuses as to why they need to rent the property right away, so they have drastically reduced the price. Some lines to look out for specifically include situations involving the previous tenant, such as:
Even though the property may not even exist, the scammer will still probably produce a rental agreement, but perhaps only if pushed to do so. Many scammers will definitely make paying the first month’s rent more of a priority.
However, while they might make an effort to send over what appears to be a real housing contract, they may not request the documents that are typically expected when renting a property. These may change by the country to which you’re moving, but typically include:
Be sure to take these tips when you’re moving abroad and apply them to your search methods so that you don’t fall victim to an online rental scam. Just as you purchase travel insurance when moving abroad, use these warning signals as your insurance against scammers. However, the best way to be certain that you’re not being scammed is to work with a trusted housing platform. Unlike with real estate agents, you won’t have to pay high, unexpected fees. Plus, you'll be notified whenever properties that match your preferences are listed.
Good luck with your housing search, and enjoy your time living abroad!