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Fake landlord pockets cash from six prospective tenants at once
Tenants in Brussels are being reminded to be extra-vigilant when hunting for a place to live, after an apartment rental scam in Etterbeek left several people out of pocket.
It is reported that a woman living in a rented apartment pretended to be the owner and listed the property for rent on social media. It is claimed she took cash from six prospective tenants before disappearing with the money.
RTBF reports that the victims were vulnerable people in urgent need of a place to live. They were attracted by a low rent for what appeared to be an apartment in perfect condition.
The potential tenants were required to pay the rental guarantee and first month's rent up-front in cash. They then received a set of keys: the first, to access the building, was real, while the second key for the apartment was a fake.
A neighbour told RTBF they saw a series of people turn up outside the apartment, trying to get in to what they believed was their new home.
José Garcia, general secretary of the Union of Tenants, said the scam was not very common in Brussels - but the method had been used in the past.
"The first warning sign is a low rent," he said. "Crooks rent out apartments 'in perfect condition' at an unbeatable price. That's the first thing to check: is the rent much lower than the norm?"
He added: "The second warning sign is being obliged to sign the lease on the spot. Scammers are taking advantage of a pressing demand for housing to commit abuses. Finally, refuse to make any payment other than a bank transfer. No cash should change hands."