Every apartment sounds like a dream. Large rooms, balconies, ideal position and all at unbelievably cheap rental prices. Two-bedroomed apartments in the centre of Dubrovnik for only 300 Euros a month and advertised through one of the most popular news websites in Croatia. And with many people desperate to find their own roof in Dubrovnik the interest in these adverts and apartments is huge.
But the old adage – too good to be true – is unfortunately the case. “We have been looking for an apartment for months, with the prices for rental in Dubrovnik sky-high is has proved an unfruitful and in fact quite depressing process,” commented Anita N. for The Dubrovnik Times. “We finally thought we had found something and even though it appeared suspicious we were all ready to pay and move in,” she added.
The Airbnb Dubrovnik rental scam
After replying to the advert Anita received an email from Tamara explaining how to rent the apartment. And so begins the scam. In broken English, we suspect that Google translate is used, the letter explains why and how she acquired the apartment and why she wants to rent it. And here is an edited version of the first contact.
- My name is Tamara Rossi and I am 44 years old. I bought this apartment for my son during the study, but he is now permanently home to Italy. The apartment is fully equipped, just like in the pictures, fully furnished, so you do not have to enter anything (you can bring your furniture if you have it). Monthly rent is 330 € for the whole apartment, including facilities (water, electricity, internet, cable, parking). The rental contract is flexible; the minimum stay is 1 month - up to 8/9 years. Price does not increase monthly; it remains the same for the entire period in which the contract was signed. We look forward to hearing you soon. Tamara –
Stolen photo used as an advert in Dubrovnik
Tamara, Leonarda, Angela, the names keep changing but there is a common thread that binds these scam artists together. They all use an Italian sounding name and they all use Gmail. With the bait set the potential tenants are hooked. By the way all of these first, initial email contacts are exactly the same, with only the names changed.
The follow up and the continuation of the scam. And again we have edited the email.
- Thanks for your reply. You seem to be a very nice person and I can assure you we will not have any problems. The apartment has been up kept properly and had a professional, top-to-bottom cleaning. Like I have inform you before, the price you shall pay for 1 month of rent will be €300 and I want also a security deposit €500 (the security deposit €500 you will receive back at the end of the contract), with no extra taxes to pay. The rent, I want to receive them monthly to my bank account, so I hope it will be no problem for you to wire the money. The apartment is ready for you, all you have to do is to check it and see if you like it. In order of that, I've found a way for us to complete the deal safely and fast so you can check the apartment in less than 3 days. Nobody can help me to show you the apartment because I don't know the neighbours very well. The solution I've chosen is provided by Airbnb, they handle rentals for people who are unable to solve them alone, which are abroad etc., so they will take care both the inspection and payment. If you are interested so please email me, and I will send the link with my apartment listed on Airbnb. Best Regards, Tamara. –
One fake apartment advert - too good to be true
“It all looked so real and when she passed on the Airbnb link to the apartment we saw reviews and more photos, we were really hooked,” commented Anita.
And she isn’t the only one to almost fall for this scam, we have been contacted by two more victims. The link seems real, real photos, real reviews and lots of other info about the apartment. Reassured by the fact that one of the largest online accommodation companies is behind it renters feel that at least they have so form of guarantee.
However, what they are looking at isn’t actually an Airbnb site at all it’s a fake. Our Italian sounding con artists have copied the real Airbnb profile of some, or maybe we should say any, real renter in Dubrovnik. Stolen their photos, description and rates and turned them into a fake site.
The bait is laid, the renter hooked, now it’s time to reel them in
Using the fake Airbnb website the scam now goes after the money. “We were all ready to pay the 800 Euros. We had been to the bank, checked our accounts and even took a special credit card just for the payment,” added Anita. 800 Euros, 300 for the first month’s rent and 500 for the security deposit, that if she had paid would have never seen again. And the “reel them in email” looked like this.
- I want to take this opportunity to assure you that there is nothing to be worried about this rental. You can see on my announcement that I've positive feedback with Airbnb and they verified my personal ID. I will try explain to you step by step how this will work, take a few moments and read my email carefully! First you must reserve the apartment and after you've made the booking, you must complete the payment. In 2-3 days after your payment confirmation the agent from Airbnb will come to present you the apartment and give you the contract. The contract is signed by me and you can choose to rent my apartment for long or short term period. The monthly rent will be the same for whole period. Once you inspected the apartment you have two options: Option 1: You will take the apartment and sign the contract for long or short term period. Option 2: But I don't think you will use this option, you'll tell to the agent that you don't want to rent my apartment and Airbnb will refund you the money in 48 hours. End of the deal! I've chosen Airbnb because they offer a guarantees for both of us. I will get paid only after you confirm that you will rent my apartment –
The first mention of an agent. But it appears that an agent is never to be seen. “We insisted to see the apartment, but we were so desperate that we were willing to pay the money before actually seeing it,” commented Anita. Again she isn’t the only one. According to the Dubrovnik Police Force two people have already reported that they have lost money this year through similar scams. They reported that they are investigating the cases.
- To rent the apartment immediately please select the period for one month and click the " Instant Booking " button in the listing. On the next page review your purchase information. After you will complete the Airbnb steps, they will send you an invoice with the payment details and the confirmation –
Clicking Instant booking would mean that 800 Euros would end up with Tamara, the scammer. And when pressed if the apartment could be viewed before paying she was ready with an answer.
- The agent of Airbnb can't come to show you the apartment without any guarantee. This is the reason that I chose Airbnb because they offers guarantees for your money and for my apartment –
So an Airbnb apartment just pulled of an innocent parties account and then advertised through a major newspaper and then using a fake Airbnb website to offer some kind of guarantee. The only guarantee is that you’ll lose your money.