Too cheap to be true: Swindlers try to lure house hunters in property portals with would-be dream homes. comparis.ch 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, comparis.ch 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 comparis.ch fight fraud?
Our listings are checked on a regular basis and removed if they seem suspicious. Just as other property portals, comparis.ch makes a point of detecting fraudulent listings and deleting them as quickly as possible. Do not hesitate to report suspicious listings to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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