When you’re planning to move abroad, one of the most important things you’ll need to do is find a place to rent. This is arguably one of the hardest things to do as you don’t know who to trust, where to live, or whether the rent is high. This is a terrible combination as scammers take advantage of this lack of knowledge and urgency to find a place to trick students or expats out of their money.
Since renting housing abroad will take up the largest part of your budget, you need to be extra careful and attentive to the rising scams. To help you have a safe and smooth rental experience, this guide will teach you all you need to know about scammers and their techniques.
Although this saying is a cliche, scammers are always finding new, creative ways to distract you from the scam with too good to be true features and amenities. How do you spot these? Here’s how:
So, let’s imagine you ask this “landlord” to show you the house so you can verify that this rental property is real. If they say they don’t live in town and say they don’t have a property manager who can show you around, it’s a cause for suspicion. If they make up any excuse, such as “I’m not in town” and say you can just walk outside the apartment to see it — run! Most likely, there’s a reason they can’t show you the inside of the flat — they don’t have the keys.
The only way to get around this is to offer a new date for visitation, ask them for a video chat with the current tenants or ask them to inform the current tenants that you want to visit the room/apartment.
Scammers are very insistent about receiving your payment right away. In fact, they’ll often invent other tenants who want to rent the property right away. Some may go as far as to say they’re going to rent to you because they “like you better,” just as long as you can pay first. This type of behaviour is almost always a sure sign that you’re dealing with a scammer.
If the “landlord” that you’re dealing with seems to get annoyed when you ask for additional images, video or answers to questions, then it could be a red flag. Scammers want to take your money quickly and move on to the next potential victim; so slowing them down by asking them to upload documents or pictures is enough to create some agitation.
Some scammers get super creative and to convince you, they’ll even send you a copy of a rental agreement. While this can easily trick many people into believing the scam, pay attention to what they’re and aren’t asking for. For example:
If things don’t seem good, resist the pressure to send money or sign a contract.
Scammers might not request the documents that are typically expected when renting a property. These may depend on the country you’re moving to but typically include:
If they don’t want to screen you, don’t trust them! At the same time, if they’re in a hurry to ask for your documents, be wary. They might be trying to steal your identity! If in doubt, ask them what they need it for and why. If they get irritated or have a bad response, you might be dealing with a scammer.
Unlike the previous scenario, in this case, scammers will convince you of their authenticity with stolen, but real identities.
Some prospective tenants think that if they ask for official ID copies from the “landlord”, they can verify their true identity. But having someone send over their personal information does not guarantee that the person behind the screen isn’t a scammer or identity thief. After all, it isn’t that hard for scammers to get their hands on IDs. They simply ask prospective tenants to share or upload their IDs and then create new profiles based on the stolen identity.
When asked for an ID, which you’ll most likely need to verify when renting, make sure that you’ve looked at the reviews of the platform or agency or at least seen the landlord and the apartment prior to sending the documents.
There’re numerous warning signs online or at banks that wiring money can be dangerous. Yet, you’ll be surprised how many people of all ages and walks of life transfer funds to a complete stranger in a foreign country. If your “landlord” asks you to wire money for an urgent transfer and isn’t willing to use a more secure payment method, step away.
The same goes for cash payments or bitcoin payments. They’re completely untraceable and once they get your money, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever find them again.
Now that you know some common ways scammers will trick you, here’re some tips on how to avoid them.
Using social media to find housing can be tempting. While Facebook groups are a great way to find other internationals and learn more about the city, finding a house on such platforms is risky.
Scammers on Facebook understand your fears and demands of renting a furnished place and will use several convincing techniques to get money from you. Here’re some telltale signs to watch out for during your search:
A new or sparse profile: Scammers can’t cheat numerous tenants from the same profile for long, so they are constantly creating new profiles. So if the so-called landlord has a new profile or even one with very few friends or activities, then they could be a scammer.
Old posts are all about housing: Go to their profile and see what else they’ve shared in the Facebook group before. If it’s only about housing, the same or similar house, and barely any reactions or comments, it’s highly likely they’re a scammer.
Check Other Listings: If you’re looking for rentals on the Marketplace, look at their profile and listings. If they’ve recently joined Facebook, have very few friends, use varied spellings across their listings, and offer rentals in many cities or languages, it’s probably a scam.
It’s more common for locals to buy and rent out their property than it is for foreigners. This is not to say that there aren’t genuine and verified expat landlords renting out their property. But it is a good idea to proceed with caution if the landlord doesn’t sound local. And if you see a lot of spelling mistakes or some detailed sob story, be more attentive!
There’s one last thing you can do to spot a scam — pay attention to the website’s URL or the email address and template. This is especially the case when you’re renting through an agency or platform that’s fairly well known. Phishing scams are highly convincing, especially because most people don’t sit with a magnifying glass inspecting every little detail.
So take your time and pay attention to whether the URL starts with “https://” and ends with a .com or any other extension. If you’re looking at an email, check if the email is the same one as the one used by the company — you can find this on the website and other social media platforms.
Be sure to take these tips when you’re moving abroad and apply them when searching for rental housing so that you don’t fall victim to an online rental scam.
If you want to take it a step further, then the best way to be certain that you’re not being scammed is to work with a trusted housing platform such as HousingAnywhere. Here’s why:
Good luck with your housing search, and enjoy your time living abroad!
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