Housing scams on the rise
Scams relating to student housing are on the rise. The Student Tenants' Organisation (KOMBO) has issued a warning to students looking for housing. International students are particularly vulnerable.
”Unfortunately we see a trend where fraud is increasing. Three or four years ago we discovered one or two cases a year. Now it’s one a week. And that’s just the ones we discover. We don’t know how many more go undetected,” says Joanna Rutkowska, director of KOMBO.
There are two types of scams. Most common is that the alleged landlord wants a deposit in advance. The amount could be several thousand Swedish crowns. Another is that they demand personal details from the student.
”They want a copy of your passport, claiming it provides security for them, as a landlord. But instead they use your identity. They make postings online that they are students who have an apartment to rent, and demand deposits from other students.”
The scams can appear on all types of websites, from Linköping University’s own housing notice board to sites where fake housing companies claim they rent out apartments and rooms. The fraudsters also get in touch directly with students looking for accommodation.
”We’re working on finding as many of the scammers as possible. Students tip us off, but we don’t know how many have already paid a deposit, but haven’t yet realised they have been ripped off,” says Ms Rutkowska.
She believes that international students are more vulnerable.
”They don’t know the regulations as well as Swedish students. The locals are better informed, and can more easily make direct contact with the landlord.”
How can students protect themselves against housing scammers?
”The most important thing is to never pay a deposit before you have seen the apartment or room. There is nothing strange about a landlord wanting a deposit, but not before the tenant has seen the place. Also, it’s suspicious if the deposit is to be paid into a bank account outside Sweden, or via Western Union. And warning bells should ring if there is an extra charge for gas, or a claim that the place is close to the metro. Because neither Linköping nor Norrköping have a gas supply or a metro.”
Joanna Rutkowska emphasises that it is difficult to find housing.
”Students must be aware that it’s hard to find a place, and be a bit suspicious if they suddenly get an offer that seems too good to be true. It’s a good idea to email the landlord, ask some questions, google them. If something seems strange, they are welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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Last updated: 2014-07-01