Every now and then we hear reports of property buyers being cheated out of deposits or rental customers losing money or discovering accommodation doesn’t exist. Spain’s Office of Online Security has released a guide to help customers spot and avoid scammers in the property sector. Their tips are as follows:
A few years ago several British holiday makers fell for seemingly brilliant rental offers in luxury properties. They transferred deposits to the agent but turned up to discover the place didn’t exist.
Remember that if an offer looks too good to be true, then it usually is. At the very least, be extra cautious when dealing with such an offer and don’t part with any money or information if you’re not 100% sure it is safe.
Look for watermarks from other websites on photographs of properties on offer. Even better, learn to use the Image Search function on Google to see if the same photos are being used elsewhere. This trick has also been known to work with photos of “estate agents” which are stolen photos of innocent students.
Does the landlord/owner live off the island, using this as an excuse not to show you the property in person? Watch out.
Do back up checks on any agent or company you’re dealing with. Ask them for references if need be. You need to know you’re dealing with a real person and an existing company, and this should not be difficult for trustworthy dealers to establish.
Scammers often use mobile phones or fixed lines in foreign countries. Treat both with a modicum of suspicion. Similarly, a generic email address ending in gmail.com is not the most trustworthy of contacts. They may be legit, but just take a little more time to be sure.
Are you being asked to pick up keys/ deliver contracts etc to an intermediary? Then think twice. Scammers are understandably unwilling to be spotted.
Always be suspicious of unreasonable hurry. Scammers are keen to do their dirty work as quickly as possible, and know that the more time and care you take, the less likely you are to be fooled.
Phishing is when scammers try to get your bank details, after which they’ll clean you out. NEVER supply bank details online to someone you’re not entirely sure of. Look out for messages with spelling mistakes and poor grammar – in short, not of the standard you’d expect from a professional.