Wednesday 28 July 2021

Consumer authority targets website housing scammers after complaints pile up

Photo: Depositphotos.com

The Dutch consumers authority has launched an investigation into fraudulent rental housing sites which offer properties which are often not available or don’t exist at all.

The websites charge consumers a fee to use their sites, which offer a large number of properties, often for unrealistic prices. The adverts for properties are accompanied by photos taken from legitimate websites or the internet while the owners are often said to be abroad, or about to go away.

For example, DutchNews.nl, posing as a new arrival, was offered a flat in a popular part of Amsterdam for €420, illustrated by photos taken from a Paris rental agency. Other fake postings included properties on the city’s canals for under €700.

‘It is very difficult for consumers to find a suitable rental house and some rental housing websites are abusing the situation,’ the ACM’s consumer affairs director Edwin van Houten said.

‘Consumers are being promised access to a wide and unique supply of housing in return for their subscription but in practice the accommodation is not available. We are now looking into the companies behind these websites.’

International workers arriving the Netherlands and with no knowledge of the rental market are easy prey for such websites, as are students moving to another city.

Gijs van der Linden, from the national internet crime hotline LMIO, said at least 150 complaints had been made over the past few months by people who had lost money.

‘The housing being offered is often too good and too cheap to be true,’ he said. ‘You cannot get an apartment for €600 or €700 on a top location. So check out the housing market first.’

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