Being awarded a nice, central and affordable rental apartment in Hamburg is almost like winning the lottery. In return, one sometimes generously overlooks certain oddities on the part of the landlord. However, this has been fatal to numerous people looking for a flat in recent weeks. In the end, they had a signed rental agreement in their hands and had transferred thousands of euros, but they were still left without an apartment.

The cheated people were taken in by a new scam that the police describe as extremely professional. The scammers initially offer real-life apartments with legitimate-looking advertisements on the Internet. Interested parties then receive an invitation to view the apartment, which, however, is not personally carried out by a real estate agent or landlord. Instead, a key is deposited in a key safe, as is also the case in holiday apartments, so that interested parties can guide themselves through the apartment individually.

The prospective buyers then received a confirmation and, in fact, a rental agreement. However: Immediately after the signature, the deposit, first rent and advance payments for the furniture must be transferred. Those affected report on the Internet that they have transferred sums of 4700 euros or 5000 euros. However, they could not move into the apartments because they were not available.

In fact, these were inhabited apartments that the regular tenants had just temporarily rented out with furniture. “This is exactly what the scammers take advantage of,” says Christiane Wagner from the State Criminal Police Office of the NDR. “They rent exactly these apartments in order to rent them out without authorization.”

And not just once. The LKA is currently aware of around 80 key safe fraud cases that were carried out with only four Hamburg apartments. According to the police, it is particularly perfidious that German accounts are used for the fraud. Innocent middlemen would probably be exploited, who would then transfer the money abroad.

A woman from Hamburg reports to NDR that the only reason she didn’t fall into the trap was because a note on the apartment door warned of the scam. The main tenant who had gone away had meanwhile gotten wind of the scam and had the warning posted. Another person affected, who had already given notice of her old apartment in Sweden, now has to move back in with her parents after returning to Hamburg.

The Hamburg consumer advice center advises: “Don’t act hasty, don’t trust providers blindly. Even if time is short, take a close look.” If no landlord or agent is present at the viewing, be careful. You should also take a close look at newly renovated apartments in a good location. “Don’t transfer money or give out any personal information if you find an advert suspicious.” Anyone who has fallen into the trap should report the process to the relevant real estate portal and file a criminal complaint with the police.

Sources: Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg / NDR / Trustpilot