Housing scams can leave individuals financially devastated and emotionally drained. However, with the right knowledge and cautionary measures, you can protect yourself and avoid falling victim to these fraudulent schemes.
Here are some useful tips to avoid scams and find the perfect (and real) house in Aveiro!
Avoid this offer.
Most of the scammers we encounter upload all of their information on the same day. New profiles are also much more likely to be fraudulent, as it is difficult to keep the scam running for over a year.
Get the exact address and verify it on Google Maps.
Scout the owner elsewhere online, like LinkedIn. Don't be afraid to make reference checks to reputable people that might know the owner. If the property seems to be listed by a management company, vet the listing agent before handing over any money. Agents have to be licensed at the state level.
This doesn't work like it used to because scammers are getting smarter and alter the picture. We've seen multiple people save themselves from a scam because they were resourceful enough to do their own reverse image searches. Do a reverse image search by right clicking and searching for the image. If it seems like this is a generic stock photo, run!
Do some research into who owns this property before signing any paperwork. If it’s a company rather than a person, there’s a higher chance they’ll try scamming tenants by making last-minute changes or raising prices after signing. You can also try to ask on Facebook pages about this landlord, apartment, agency, etc. to be sure that this is not a scam.
What is the price? Check the rent of similar rooms to make sure that the rent is similar. If the room sounds too good to be true then it probably is!
What many scammers also do is try to prove that they are trustworthy. For instance, they offer references or send proof of identity to you. If you receive a copy of the passport from someone, then you know for sure that it’s a scam. With a real landlord it’s the other way around. You are the person who has to prove that you are a good tenant, you must prove that you can pay for the accommodation, and you must ultimately present proof of identity.
Do not send a photo of your passport. If you send this to the wrong person, you run the risk that it will be used to scam others for years to come. It’s fairly standard practice that you’ll eventually have to hand over a copy of your passport. When you do this, make a copy, make your BSN number illegible and write on the copy why you’ve made the copy before handing it over.
If you are asked to make a payment to a bank account that is not in the name of the landlord OR to a bank account that is not in Portugal (the IBAN must start with PT) then this should catch your attention.
If something feels off or suspicious during the housing search, trust your instincts. Scammers often use high-pressure tactics, create a sense of urgency, or push for quick decisions. Take your time, ask questions, and seek advice from friends or family members. Remember, a legitimate landlord or property owner will understand and accommodate your need for due diligence.
Conclusion: Protecting yourself from housing scams requires vigilance, research, and critical thinking. By thoroughly researching listings, being cautious of unrealistic offers, insisting on physical visits, avoiding upfront payments, being wary of overseas landlords, using licensed real estate agents, and trusting your instincts, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to fraudulent schemes. Stay informed, remain alert, and prioritize your safety when searching for your next home.
These tips are not 100% effective and we advise all students and interns to be wary when booking a room for your stay and to verify the room in every way possible.