HOW TO AVOID FRAUDS - The Ultimate Guide



Frauds related with rentals are more or less common in whole Sweden, especially in areas where there a few available places to rent, like Stockholm. In addition, some tenants might become frustrated after realizing that finding accommodation it is not as easy as they were expecting. These circumstances and the lack of information, makes the Stockholm rental market a target for scammers.

In this post, we explain the most common scams, so everyone can recognize a fraud, and avoid it.

Types of Scams

In our journey to find flat or room in Stockholm we might find different types of frauds, also called ‘scams’. In this section we will focus on the most common cases.

Email/online deposit

With no doubts, the most common type of scam is the one we call ‘email/online deposit’ (in advance). In this case, the scammer pretends to be a landlord who is abroad. He usually pretends to be in countries such as UK, Ireland or Egypt. The most common excuse to explain why the landlord is in a foreign country: work. He might explain that he had to move there due to an unexpected job assignment.

In this case the scammer sends you an email with a (fake) ID information (passport), pretending to prove his identity. You might think this is legit, but unfortunately, it is not. Professional scammers normally gather passports from other frauds’ victims. So, the passport scammer is sending to you was probably stolen.

 




You will start a conversation with the landlord that looks legit. they can ask you about where you work and why you need to rent, then they will send you some photos (probably just stolen from a legit rental posted online)

Then the landlord will ask you for your passport to “prepare the contract”, that way even if you don’t proceed with the payment, they will have a copy of your passport to use in their next scam.

After some emails back and forth, the fake landlord will always ask you to pay a deposit in advance. Moreover, the payment is normally a wire transfer to a UK account, or using services like Western Union. You need to know that these payment services do not allow you to get your money back.






To recap, these are the warning signs:

  1. Landlord is abroad, so, he cannot schedule a viewing of the rental.
  2. You need to pay the deposit through either wire transfer to UK or Western Union.
  3. Landlord is pushing to close the deal (fraud) quickly.
  4. Monthly rent is lower than market price (too good to be truth).

Note: The pictures provided in this scam example are from a real scam. 



Meet and greet deposit

Unlike the email/online deposit scam, in this type of scam you get to see the property.
After contacting with the (fake) landlord and getting all the information you need (address, rent, deposit...), he will schedule a viewing.

During the viewing he will show the flat or room, so the tenant will be convinced that landlord wants to rent out the property. Once the tenant is happy and reaches an agreement (moving date, deposit and rent), the landlord will ask the tenant to pay a deposit (usually in cash) before moving. After the tenant pays the deposit in advance, the person who showed the apartment will be nowhere to be found and not contactable.

In this case, the tenant should be cautious. The viewing is important since tenant can verify that the property exists, however, it is not enough to guarantee that it is a legit deal. Therefore, a tenant should never pay before signing the contract, and double checking that the landlord’s information stated in the contract is exactly the same than the one in the provided documents (id card).


 Sophisticated Meet and greet deposit

This is a variant of the scam described above. In this case, once the tenant has paid the deposit, the landlord give her the keys.

When tenant turns up at the property, she discovers that the keys do not work and the landlord is no longer contactable. The tenant may also arrive at the same time as other “tenants”, who were equally scammed.


In both Meet and greet variations, the key elements to detect that is a scam:
  1. The landlord usually just tries to convince you to rent but you will notice that they ask little about you… and you know that a property is legit when the landlord wants to know everything about you because he wants to be sure that you are the right tenant.
  2. After making the viewing, they propose to pay a deposit BEFORE signing the contract
  3. In case that you sign the contract, they will ask you for your ID but they will not show you theirs to see that all matches
  4. The deposit has to be paid in Cash
  5. Landlord is pushing to close the deal (fraud) quickly.
  6. Monthly rent is lower than market price (too good to be true).
Are all services equally safe?

There are multiple services a tenant might use in order to find accommodation in Stockholm. However, we can classify in 4 different groups: high-touch agencies, online agencies, ad websites and social networks. All groups have pros and cons, and it is important to understand how they work, so we know what to expect.

The chances to find frauds depends on how easy it is for a scammer is publish fake properties, so, potential tenants contact him.

It is important to understand how much effort each service group makes when it comes to fraud detection and prevention.

  • High-touch agencies: company which handles all rental process. They talk personally with 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 agencies: companies with websites where landlords post their properties. They usually perform landlord validation in order to avoid frauds. They offer the properties online, after the tenant has signed up and provided personal information. Some of them offer free contract samples.

  • Ad websites: websites where everyone can post an ad. They usually have an accommodation section, where landlords post their properties. In this case the validation is not as accurate as in other services, such as high-touch agencies or online agencies.

  • Social networks: there are specific groups where people look for a rental offers. Landlords posts their properties in these groups and people contact them, usually by sending PMs (private messages).


The safest places you might use are high-touch agencies. They usually are in touch with landlords, so, they have his personal information, and they normally visit the rental before offering it to tenants. These services also provide assistance with the contract and home insurance.

The opposite side are social networks like Facebook. You might find interesting groups where people post available flats and rooms. The problem here is that social networks like Facebook do not perform any control on the rental offers, so, the responsibles of double checking that the  rental is legit are the admins and the users. Therefore, unless the rental post it clearly looks like a fraud, the scammer will get a lot of private messages before being reported and banned from the group.

Most scams you might find will come from social networks. This is due the is a lack of control and the easiness of creating fake user accounts.

Here you have a list of different places and the risk to find frauds:

  • Low or 0 risk: high-touch or online agencies such as Qasa, Samtrygg or Akademisk Kvart (a student service mainly for rooms).

  • Medium-Low risk: ad websites such as Blocket. We need to say here that Blocket is working hard on this issue. They gather more information about the landlord and they just 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.

  • Medium risk: online services with poor landlord information control. This allows fake landlord to gather fake information (ex: flat/room pictures) and easily post a fake rental in their sites.

  • High risk: social networks (e.g. Facebook)




Golden Rules to avoid Scams

These are some tips that will definitely help you to avoid frauds:

  1. Ask always for the landlord personal information. The information you need is: name, surname, phone number and id (personnummer).

  1. Double check that the provided address really exists. You can user services such as Eniro or Google Maps.

  1. Googling name and surname of the landlord might help you to find people who has reported this person in previous frauds. You might find this information in blogs and forums.

  1. Never send your scanned id (passport). This id can be used in future frauds.

  1. Never pay the deposit before the viewing and signing the contract.

  1. Sometimes, legit landlords ask for the deposit transfer in advance. Normally, this is due personal circumstances of either the landlord or the tenant. If this happens, you should use safe payment services, such as PayPal or wire transfers to Swedish accounts.

  1. Never pay in cash. Paying in cash means that it is really difficult to track the payment. If you have any issue with the landlord, it will be very difficult to prove you have paid.




Useful links
eniro.se and hitta.se (to check the landlord’s address)
Swedish Police (Swedish)