Scams are an unfortunate feature of our online lives. Scammers proliferate in areas as diverse as banking, shopping, private email / messaging and dating. Searching for a property to rent is no exception.
Here are our top tips for protecting yourself online when looking for an apartment or room to rent in Denmark.
In competitive housing markets, a tried and tested scam technique is to convince you to part with cash, before you have seen the apartment. The scammers play on your fears of missing out, typically emphasising the fact that there is someone else waiting in the wings to take your place. They will imply, or state, that other potential tenants are ready to transfer the required deposit, immediately, if you don’t first.
Scammers construct their back story carefully. A common narrative we have identified is to say that they live abroad. This will often be mentioned in the first email/message. Later, when it comes to arranging a viewing, this excuse will be used to justify why you cannot see the property until a later date.
Be aware that in cities such as Copenhagen, where the demand for housing far surpasses the supply, this type of scam is more prevalent.
Pricing is one technique used to lure you in. If the price is too good to be true, there is a good chance that it isn’t. Another trick is to make you feel special, which leads me to the next point…
Scammers know how to make you feel good. How do they do this? They flatter and manipulate through the psychology of language.
Look out for the use of words such as honest, kind, decent, good, trust etc. The latter, of course, has a special place in Danish culture. Scammers are aware of this and take full advantage of the Danes’ ‘trust until you have proof that you shouldn’t’ approach.
It is likely they will express a preference for you, over other potential tenants, via statements like “I can tell that you are an honest person” or “I have a good feeling about you”, “I prefer you because.” This is another tool in their language arsenal to make you feel special.
Even if you consider yourself a pro at avoiding online scams, it is advisable to research the specific language, key words and phrases currently in use by property rental scammers in Denmark.
Finding an apartment or room in a city where the market is over subscribed can, at best leave, you feeling like you are undergoing a series of interviews or auditions. At worst, you may feel like a competitor in Squid Game or The Hungers Games. The difference being that your battle is for a roof over your head and to avoid homelessness, a costly stint in a hotel or a sofa surfing scenario.
Additionally, there are often personal issues involved which enhance your vulnerability. Perhaps you are moving due to noise problems that have left you exhausted from sleep deprivation, are in the midst of a breakup or have just arrived in Denmark and are about to start a new job.
When life’s pressures are added into the stressful mix of a move / property search, the result is a potent cocktail of vulnerability. Keeping this in mind makes you much less likely to fall for a scam.
Scammers hijack trusted brand names to get you to part with your money.
Airbnb and Tripadvisor are the ones we have seen most frequently mentioned in Denmark, following ads initially placed on property sites. Typically, they will send you a link to a page where you are asked to make the payment. These pages are created to look identical to the company’s own.
How can you spot the fake sites? Most obvious is to use a search engine to access the real site, where a legitimate property will appear in a search. You can also check the website address this way. Another is to click on the logo which would normally take you to the home page. Often (but not always), the fake sites are in fact a single webpage page so doing this will take you nowhere.
During my own property search in Copenhagen, I accidently entered the incorrect password for my Airbnb account. Realising this as I hit Enter, I was still somehow logged in despite this. I had felt uneasy prior to this moment. The next point in the list explains why you should never, ever ignore such feelings.
You are about to transfer your hard earned money, to secure an apartment. You feel relief at having achieved the near impossible feat of finding a home in a city with a housing shortage. You start to plan out how to arrange the furniture and window shop online for the latest in candles and cushions to make a cosy home.
But, there’s an undefinable niggling, wriggling feeling in your stomach. A floating thought in your brain that “something isn’t quite right”.
Press pause, now. That is your gut instincts talking and you should listen!
Although you may be unable to articulate exactly what the problem is, some part of your mind will have picked up on a clue that you are not yet fully conscious of. A scam might be obvious from the first reading of a property ad. More likely, it will only become apparent at a later stage, sometimes fatally, after you have hit send in your online banking app.
Know that scammers techniques are ever evolving. They experiment and change strategies when existing ones no longer work. It is impossible for any list on the subject to be exhaustive or always up to date. Therefore, when you embark on your search, be sure to research the latest scams.
Ask friends or acquaintances who are more familiar with the market for advice. Trusted social media groups and online communities can also be informative. Learning from the experience of others can help you decipher what is a normal procedure when renting in Denmark, and what might be a scam.
If you do encounter or become a victim of a scam, share your own experiences with others. Again, online and local communities and groups are a good place for this. The more people who are aware of the scammers, the less power they have.
At Goroom we work hard to spot scams and encourage you to report them to us.
Scams are increasing at an alarming rate. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible will help you to avoid becoming another unlucky statistic.
Be vigilant, keep the above in mind and please stay safe!
Rebecca Hallam is a freelance writer and administrator from the UK. Currently living in Copenhagen, she moved to Denmark in February 2020. She lived and rented in London for over 13 years, and has also lived in the northern English cities of Manchester and Chester.