The ongoing shortage of long-term rental properties in Spain has reached a critical point, leaving many working families struggling to find affordable housing. Unfortunately, this crisis has created an environment ripe for exploitation, with opportunistic scammers preying on vulnerable individuals seeking accommodation.
In a recent encounter, one of our editors almost fell victim to a scam while searching for a rental property.
Rising prices and desperation
The scarcity of available long-term rental properties has driven prices to unprecedented levels. Therefore, making it increasingly challenging for ordinary working families to secure suitable accommodation. This situation has forced individuals to explore alternative avenues. This includes online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, where rental listings appear to offer reasonable prices and favourable conditions.
Also read: New housing act reduces rental supply
Rental scammers tactics unveiled
Our editor, currently on the hunt for a rental property, stumbled upon seemingly attractive offers on Facebook Marketplace. However, the situation took a suspicious turn when contact with an advertiser prompted a shift to email communication. The advertiser, claiming to be a doctor away on business, requested personal information and payment details after deeming the property suitable based on routine questions. This raised red flags for our editor, who wisely forwarded the correspondence to the National Cybersecurity Institute (INCIBE-CERT).
The National Cybersecurity Institute promptly acknowledged the potential fraud and offered valuable advice to our editor. They identified the situation as a classic case of a scam using false rental advertisements to lure victims. The advice included recommendations for reporting the incident to law enforcement, exploring the possibility of recovering defrauded funds through the bank, and highlighting insurance options that may cover certain types of online scams.
Taking action against scams
Victims of rental scams are urged to report incidents to the State Security Forces and Bodies, facilitating the necessary investigations into the economic damage suffered. Banks may offer assistance in recovering funds, and home insurance policies may provide coverage for specific types of online scams. Additionally, INCIBE-CERT emphasised the importance of using reporting systems on online platforms to prevent others from falling victim to the same scams.
Educating the public
As the rental crisis persists and scammers become increasingly sophisticated, it is crucial to educate the public on recognising potential scams. INCIBE-CERT provides valuable resources on detecting rental fraud, offering insights into the common tactics used by scammers and tips for staying vigilant.
If it sounds to good to be true…
The shortage of long-term rental properties in Spain not only poses financial challenges for working families but also creates an environment where scammers thrive. As our editor’s experience demonstrates, remaining vigilant and informed is crucial when navigating the rental market to avoid falling victim to fraudulent schemes.
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