Beware of fake listings! How to avoid falling prey to fraudsters

It is suspicious when keys are handed over by post for the recipient to go and inspect the apartment. Source: iStock / shironosov

Too cheap to be true: Swindlers try to lure house hunters in property portals with would-be dream homes. explains how to recognise fake listings.

Imagine you wish to inspect an apartment and you are asked to make a security deposit of a whopping 2000 francs in order to receive the key by post. You are sceptical? Very good! Unfortunately, not everybody looking for a new home realises that this is the work of cunning swindlers. Those who fall for the trick wait for the key in vain.

3-room apartment in Zurich for 600 francs

The conditions with which the tricksters bait their victims often sound terribly tempting – especially to those who have been inspecting innumerable apartments for months on end.

The listings could say something like: 3.5-room apartment of 100 square metres in Zug for a mere 800 francs per month. Or what do you think of this: 3 rooms with 95 square metres in the Zurich Niederdorf for 600 francs? The people behind such incredible bargains are usually fraudsters trying to trick their victims into paying a "key deposit" or other fictitious amounts.

But watch out: In recent months, has noted that fraudsters are constantly refining their tricks and are now capable to create very realistic and authentic-looking listings or re-use real old listings. The contact data of the swindlers are then added to these listings.

This is how the the scam works

  • First the perpetrators list apartments at what appear to be unbeatable prices using existing addresses – mainly in large cities such as Zurich, Basel, Bern or Geneva – and fictitious contact persons. In order to be able to place these listings, they use middlemen to provide them with bank accounts and Swiss mobile phone numbers.
  • The listings are usually published on weekends. The swindlers probably hope that they can thus skirt controls by the property portals. By the time their scam is exposed on Monday, a few victims might already have fallen into their trap.
  • The rent is usually way below local standards – the apartments are usually offered at an unbeatable price for which, legitimately, you would barely get a broom closet. Immigrants not yet familiar with price levels in Switzerland are at a particular risk of falling for such fake listings.
  • The photos often only show the interior, but not views from outside or the street. Sometimes, the same pictures are even re-used for several fake listings. So be careful if you feel like you have seen something before.
  • Interested persons receive an e-mail, usually written in poor German or French, in which the would-be apartment owner writes that he is currently abroad. Instead he offers to send the key by post for the victim to inspect the apartment on his or her own. As a safety measure he requests payment of a deposit of two to three monthly rents, explaining that, if one did not like the apartment, one could simply return the key and get a refund of the deposit in turn.
  • The swindlers take the money of the deposit and their victims wait for the letter with the key in vain.

How does fight fraud?

Our listings are checked on a regular basis and removed if they seem suspicious. Just as other property portals, makes a point of detecting fraudulent listings and deleting them as quickly as possible. Do not hesitate to report suspicious listings to

Have you already fallen for the scam?

We would be glad to help you. Specific cases may help to induce the public prosecutor to investigate against the perpetrators and put a stop to their doings. This would not only help you and us, but also thousands of other people looking for an apartment in Switzerland.

If you discover a fraudulent listing, please report it to our customer service: 

Telephone: +41 44 360 52 62

Thank you very much for your assistance.