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Beware, trap! How to expose apartment-hunting scammers

Release: February 2022

How to avoid scammers when looking for an apartment

In the past few years, when I have been increasingly busy looking for an apartment for professional reasons, I have of course noticed advertisements from time to time or been approached by rental offers that seemed too good to be true at first glance - and where my gut feeling was right. 

On the Internet, there are numerous tips on how to recognize fraudulent rental offers in France. In his article, I would like to tell you about my experiences and suggest a few tips so that you can feel a little safer when looking for an apartment in Paris. 

7 tips to avoid scammers when looking for an apartment in France

Misconception: Having discovered a cheap apartment in Paris

It all depends on your perspective: Where Parisian rents are a bargain for many people from New York, they are far from it for Cologne students. Therefore, I would like to make the sweeping statement that the rental costs in Paris are already extremely high for the majority of people. Not everyone wants to pay € 1000 rent including utilities just for 25 square meters. But sometimes we are lucky in life, right? Because there it suddenly appears, the dream offer in top location and at an affordable price! € 700 for 30 square meters in the Marais? Deal!

But such ads are 99% fraud. So hands off!

The good old saying that you don't get anything for free in life applies all the more in a highly contested housing market like in Paris. Follow your gut instinct and once again ask how it can be that the apartment is so much cheaper than usual.

In general, you can report a conspicuous online ad to the website where you discovered it. The operators have a legitimate interest in tracking down false ads to maintain their credibility.

Misconception: Just reserve quickly, then the apartment is yours

As soon as someone asks you to pay in advance, stop the conversation immediately.

There are countless scammers on the market who are just waiting for someone to open her/his wallet and transfer the deposit or a "security fee" out of time pressure or naivety. Popular buzzwords that you should be wary of are e.g. "Western Union" or "mandat cash", often with the suffix "urgent". 

Serious landlords or agencies do not ask you for money before signing the lease. And not infrequently, the money is then gone, but the apartment key is not in hand despite "reservation". Always transfer the deposit and the first rent only after the rental contract has been signed, and the apartment has been inspected, and the keys have been handed over.

Misconception: It is what it is

There you are, in your potential dream home, the landlady is smiling at you, the sun is shining ... and the lease is ready to be signed. Grandiose! Isn't it? 

It's not uncommon for scammers to book apartments on popular short-term rental portals and pass them off as their own. They obtain keys to other people's apartments that are temporarily empty, and then brazenly pose as the owner. It can therefore be useful to have a document shown that clarifies the ownership, e.g. an extract from the land register, so that you do not fall into a trap. 

Misconception: The landlord has a nice cousin

You have responded to an ad and receive either a text message or an e-mail saying that the owner is away at the moment. He won't be back for a few weeks, but still wants you to rent out the apartment immediately. And a family member or a friend is taking care of the procedure.

Of course, this could be the case, but don't give it a second thought. This is a very popular scam, often accompanied by keywords from paragraph 2, to get advance payments. You cannot rent the apartment from the offer, period.

Misconception: Mistakes can happen

Yes, they can. Spelling errors especially, no one is perfect. Even many French people confuse some things in everyday use ("J'ai marcher" instead of "J'ai marché" or se/ce etc.), because many things sound amazingly the same.

But fraudulent advertisements and e-mails can be recognized by an accumulation of orthographic errors, because the fraudsters are frequently based abroad and this can produce conspicuousness. 

Misconception: A lot helps a lot

Please, just do not worry! Everything is ok! The advance payment is only for the fact that I, the landlord, can also assume to rent to such a fabulous person as you are! And of course you do not transfer the money directly to my account, but it is parked neutrally!

Blah blah blah...

As soon as you receive a message that a) contains such text and b) constantly points out that everything is correct (really!) in order to rule out security concerns for both parties, just run. Even if you should be motivated to pay the rent on time later, there should be no need to constantly remind you of your honorable intentions. Scammers regularly try to allay concerns with exaggerated promises of security, so beware.

Misconception: Seriously typed, seriously thought

Just when you make a written request to a housing ad, please be once again sensitive, if a longer written response follows. Grab the text and put it into Google or another search engine of your choice. Quite often, it will then become immediately clear that these are quite typical standard texts that are reused by scammers, slightly modified. 

A word about the protection of your dossier

Finally, I would like to mention two points that concern your dossier.

Point 1 always presents seekers with a dilemma. We are talking about the famous R.I.B., the "relevé d'identité bancaire". This is the proof of a French account and therefore a simple document that is provided by your French bank or can be downloaded online in your personal account.

Until today, it is common practice that private landlords as well as countless agencies demand this document in order to "win" a bit more security. The reason given for this is that it would be difficult to collect outstanding payments from foreign accounts.

This may be true, but it should not play a role when looking for an apartment, because French law has prohibited asking for a R.I.B. since 2015.

Only, what to do? Two hearts beat in my chest here. As an Aries and therefore someone who also sometimes gives counter , I say that you can point out this circumstance if this requirement comes up and causes stomach ache. Especially if you may not have a French account yet. On the other hand, the search for housing in Paris is difficult for many people. Criticism may result in a direct "Well, then not. Next one!" and should be considered in the personal situation.

Moving on to point 2, it is regularly recommended to send in the dossier only after a visit: But in many cases this is not possible, because agencies and landlords want to save time and screen potential tenants before investing too much time. So what to do in such a situation? With the personal data in the dossier such as address or identity card number, so many misuses can be done, and you finally do not know to whom the documents will be passed on in the end.

Here are some options to protect the dossier a little better:

 Option A

Step 1) Add a watermark to all documents, for example by authorizing them only for the housing search process. This is possible, for example, for PDFs with online tools such as  PDF24 or  iLovePdf. Likewise, programs like Wondershare and many others.

Step 2) However, some tools can remove watermarks, so it is recommended to convert the edited PDFs into images. For example, this can also be done with the mentioned online tools.

 Option B

Create a dossier via an online portal such as loumi or  DossierFacile. The dossier is secured and will only be used for the apartment search.


Good luck with your apartment search!  I will be very happy to assist you with any questions, including the creation of your dossier and translation!