How to avoid rental scams

Here are a few basic rules to avoid rental scams… to be expanded in the future.

Please leave your own advice in the comments and we’ll add it here.

  1. Never pay any money (apart from a small holding deposit maybe) before you more or less have the keys in your hand and you’ve confirmed that the flat/room actually exists.
  2. If you are told that it’s not possible to see the flat/room because the landlord is out of the country or the current occupant doesn’t want people to view the place in person, you can be 99.9% sure it’s a scam.
  3. If people on Facebook respond to your room seeking post with a simple “PM”, or are telling you they have “leads” for you (the latter is a new one), be extra careful. In fact, if someone replies to you on Facebook with an offer you’re best of assuming it’s a scam… from the stories we’ve heard we’d bet money on at least 80% of those being scams. It wasn’t always like this, but that’s the unfortunate truth these days.
  4. If anyone replies with a link to follow, make sure you recognize the domain and you’re sure you can trust it. There are a lot of domains that are almost exclusively used for scams or malware spreading… at the moment it’s mainly *.mystrikingly.com.
  5. If you are dealing with an agency, make sure they have an office, and check that the person you are talking to actually works there.
  6. If an agency contacts you because you posted in a Facebook or WhatsApp group, make extra sure that it’s an actual agency (see above).
    Legitimate agencies don’t have to reply to posts or contact you in any way… they are busy enough already.
    Exception if you’ve publicly offered a ridiculous amount of money.
  7. Check if the flat is listed on Airbnb or similar sites. A common scam is for people to rent a flat on Airbnb and then “rent it” to unsuspecting victims.
  8. Use Google’s image search to find the original source of photos and make sure they are not stock photos or have been listed for other offers.
  9. On Facebook, check other posts in the group… some groups are completely unmoderated, so if you see a lot of nonsense spam, you should be extra careful with the posts in those groups.

And on a little side-note: please always let us know if you encounter rental scams or other nastiness. We can sometimes help you report scams and other unwanted behaviour to the police or Ajuntament de Barcelona.

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2 thoughts on “How to avoid rental scams”

  1. Also other things to remember:
    – In Spain, Whatsapp conversations (and other main social media private conversations) are legally binding and can be used in court, so even if you are not getting a contract, you still have a contract under the Civil Code of Law.
    – You have the right to be registered as a citizen of Barcelona in the adress you are renting at, even if it’s a room, and they should charge you no money to do this.
    – You should have a written copy of the rules of the apartment and make photos of the room as soon as you go in, to save your deposit from being taken from you for breaking rules that were never written or breaking things that were already broken.
    – Be aware the chance to be scammed is higher if any or all of these conditions apply: they do not want to sign a contract (even if the first point I made still stands), they do not want to register you as citizen, you are not Spanish, you do not speak Spanish, you are from a higher-income country than Spain, you are young.

    1. Thanks a lot, Daena! I think your points are worth a whole new article around what rights people have when renting… I’ll get right on it, and will run it past you before posting!

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