Avoid fraud and scams

Just like in other countries, fraud related to rentals unfortunately occurs in the Netherlands. Sometimes, people become frustrated after realizing that finding accommodation is not easy as they expected. As a result, they take unadvised risks to secure their accommodation. To avoid fraud, you have to be careful before paying for accommodation.

Types of scams

Email/online deposit
The most common type of scam is the ‘email/online deposit’ (in advance). In this case, the scammer pretends to be a landlord who is abroad due to his or her ‘work’. The scammer sends you an email with (fake) identification, pretending to prove his identity. You might think this is legitimate, but professional scammers normally gather passports from other fraud victims.

You will start a conversation with the landlord. They can ask you about your work and why you need to rent and will send you photos of the property. After this, they will ask for your passport to ‘prepare the contract’.

After some emails, the landlord will always ask you to pay a deposit in advance. The payment is normally a wire transfer to a foreign account, or a service like Western Union. You need to know that these payment services do not allow you to get your money back. Be aware that even if you don’t proceed with the payment, they will have a copy of your passport to use in their next scam.

Meet and greet deposit
It is also possible that you get to see the property. Once you reache an agreement, the landlord will ask you to pay a deposit (usually in cash). After paying the deposit in advance, they will not get in touch anymore.

Therefore, a tenant should never pay before signing the contract and double check that the landlord’s information stated in the contract is exactly the same as the one in the provided documents (such as the passport).

Sophisticated meet and greet deposit
This is a variant of the scams mentioned above. In this case, once the tenant has paid the deposit, the landlord hands over the keys. However, when the tenant turns up at the property (without the landlord), he or she discovers that the keys do not work. You will never hear from the landlord again.

Warning signs of fraud
To recap, these are the warning signs of fraud:

  • In case the landlord is abroad and cannot schedule a viewing of the rental: they will ask you to pay the deposit through a wire transfer to a foreign account or Western Union;
  • In case you received the keys: the deposit has to be paid (in cash) before signing the contract;
  • The landlord is pushing to close the deal quickly;
  • Monthly rent is lower than market price (too good to be true).

Social networks
You might find interesting groups where people post available flats and rooms. However, most scams you might find will come from social networks, like Facebook. This is due to a lack of control and the ease of creating fake user accounts. Therefore, unless the rental post clearly looks like a fraud, the scammer will get a lot of private messages before being reported and banned from the group.

Tips to avoid frauds

  • Always ask for the landlord’s personal information (name, surname, phone number and ID);
  • Googling the name and surname of the landlord might help you to find people who have reported this person in previous frauds, for example in blogs and forums;
  • Double check that the provided address really exists, for example with Google Maps;
  • Never send your scanned ID (passport);
  • Never pay the deposit before viewing and signing the contract.
    Sometimes, legit landlords ask for the deposit transfer in advance. If this happens, you should use safe payment services, such as PayPal or wire transfers to Dutch accounts. Never pay in cash, because this makes it really difficult to track the payment.

Tips to deal with slumlords and scams

  • Make sure to report your slumlord to the municipality, in the online portal of the Groninger Students Union here.
  • Make sure to report a scam to the police here.
  • Make sure to contact the Rent Support Center Groningen if you had to pay any “mediation, contract or key costs” here.
  • Make sure to check the address of the room you wish to rent here. If your address is not listed, make sure to contact the Rent Support Center.