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The start of the semester marks the beginning of a housing hunt for many students, but unfortunately also for housing fraudsters who trick people for thousands of krones. Deputy Chief Superintendent Claus Birkelyng provides some tips on how you can avoid falling victim to housing scams
Last year 30 students reported to the police that they had been victims of housing scams. Ever year the Copenhagen Police gets reports of 200 incidents of housing related scams. The reports peak around the beginning of the new semester around January and August, when the demand for housing is at its highest, according to Deputy Chief Superintendent Claus Birkelyng, who investigates housing scams in Copenhagen.
“There are many different kinds of fraud – either the residence does not exist or it turns out the name of owner in the lease is not actually reflective of the true owner of residence. We have seen that there are many different ways to defraud people”
Who is behind these housing scams?
“It is often younger people that find themselves in a bad financial situation and think they can make some quick money. But they probably do not think about the fact that they will end up in prison if they are caught,” says Claus Birkelyng.
If you are a student looking for a place to live, there are a number of things that you can do to avoid getting scammed. First and foremost you have to do your research properly.
“If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, you should never agree to rent an apartment or a room if you have never seen it in real life. And you have to investigate whether the landlord really is the owner of the residence that he or she is claiming to be,” explains Claus Birkelyng and adds:
“You can find out who the owner of the residence is on websites like for example boligejer.dk. If you dealing with a housing cooperative you can contact the chairman and find out if the person who is portraying himself as the owner of the residence is in fact the real owner. We have had cases where people have shown a residence to potential renters or buyers that they do not actually own, but just happen to have the keys to,” says Claus Birkelyng and gives the following tips to students who are seeking housing.
Meet the owner of the residence in real life
Never agree to rent or buy an apartment that you have only seen on the internet. You should meet the owner in real life and make sure that the residence actually exists.
Who is the owner?
Find out who owns the residence that you considering renting. On boligejer.dk you can check to see who owns the apartment. Contact the housing cooperative or the housing association.
”I would advise International students or staff to ask a Danish friend, fellow student or colleague to assist them when they are looking at ads online. I think websites like boligejer.dk are useful, however If their Danish friend or colleague thinks that an add looks suspicious it is good indication that the specific add should be avoided,” says Claus Birkelyng.
Transfer money to a Danish bank account
Never transfer any money before you have signed a lease. Never pay in cash or to a foreign bank account because if you do you cannot be sure that you will get your money back.
Factors such as the language barrier and unfamiliarity with the Danish market may lead to International students being more vulnerable to housing scams.
“We do not have statistics that specify the nationality of the person reporting the fraud. But, in my experience, international students and staff are often the people who affected by such scams,” explains Claus Birkelyng.
Incidents of housing scams are an ongoing concern. “I remember a case in January of this year regarding a scam at a clubhouse where international students were the victims of a housing scam,” says Claus Birkelyng.