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The real Hustle – The flat rental scam

Posted by Awareness

The flat rental scam

Definition: The flat rental scam is an excellent example of a group of hustlers, selling something that just doesn’t belong to them. In the concrete example that we are about to analyze, this ‘something’ just so happens to be –don’t be surprised- a flat!

Some background information: Scammers can gain access to an empty flat in several ways. They can ‘cooperate’ with unethical estate agents, rent the flat themselves using a fake id or simply use the old method of breaking and entering. Now the trick kicks in after they have gained access to the flat; but we will discuss that a bit later.

This scam can be performed by just one individual but ideally there should be at least 2. The main idea is that the first scammer will play the role of an estate agent while the second scammer (and all others, if there are more than 2 people in the gang) will pretend to be someone who is interested in renting the flat. Although 90% of the scam is performed by the first scammer, the other 10% that the second scammer performs is so crucial that it can be a deciding factor on whether the scam will be successful or not.

The scenario: First, we assume that the gang has already advertised the flat that they will attempt to rent (internet advertisements seem to work quite well for this type of scam) and that the fake ‘estate agent’ (scammer nr #1) is already in a meeting with a client who is interested in renting the flat. During the meeting, the ‘estate agent’ will do everything possible to convince his client that there are many other people who are interested in renting this flat too; so, his current client (the person he is face to face with) would have to decide at that moment if he/she would ultimately rent the flat or not. During the negotiations, the second scammer calls our ‘estate agent’ and they begin talking about the house, the conversation goes something like this:

Scammer #2 (supposedly interested client): “Hello, I am Bryan; I am interested in renting the flat…”

Scammer #1 (estate agent): “Good afternoon Bryan, yes, I understand that you would like to ‘book’ the flat but at this very moment I can’t give you a clear yes or no because I have clients looking at it right now and I need to know what they will decide…”

Scammer #2 (supposedly interested client): “Shall I call back after 30 minutes?”

Scammer #1 (estate agent): “Hmm… call after 10 minutes and I’ll tell you… Sorry about it, but you know, they have priority so I can’t give it to you unless they decline the offer”

Scammer #2 (supposedly interested client):”Okay”

Scammer #1 (estate agent):”Talk to you in 10 minutes, bye bye”

As you understand by now, this is all part of the trick to put more pressure on the real client. The client will have to decide whether he/she will rent the flat or not; otherwise “Bryan” will get it. Even more interesting is the fact that if the client chooses to accept the offer, he/she will have to pay some type of guarantee, some type of deposit, to ‘book’ the flat for themselves.

By now, the scheme is pretty clear. Scammers will try to rent the same flat to as many persons as possible; before disappearing along with the deposits that they have collected.

How to protect yourself: The best method to protect yourself from such situations is to require paperwork. Paperwork is not very difficult for scammers to forge but most of them will not get into the trouble of forging such documents. Furthermore, if they claim to be working for a larger company, get their phone number or pay a visit to their offices; this will help you verify if you are dealing with the right persons. Finally, avoid handing out any money, no matter how desperate you are to put down a deposit, don’t do it.

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