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How to protect yourself from real estate scams

An investment in the swiss real estate sector can be cost-effective under several profiles, but, sometimes, especially if you do not want to rely on qualified and professional people, can be lead itself to a deception. Unfortunately, they are numerous the scams that are well-known by journalists and that they are organized to trick the buyers of real estate in Switzerland. Here are, therefore, some valid informations to protect yourself from real estate scams and evaluate in the best possible way the sale of apartments in Zürich and in the others swiss cities.

The plight of real estate scams

News about fake real estate-listing, then turned out into colossal frauds, indicate a constant development in recent years, exposing several people, unsuspecting of the real conditions of sale or of the situation of real estate, even to multi-million losses.

The systems through they act criminal organisations or individual fraudulent operators are differents, even if essentially attributable to a standard scheme, that offers real estate to buy or to rent on really advantageous terms.

An example of that is given by the building of real and proper international schemes that include the placement among the public of savers, workers and retirees, of attractive real estate bids and villas or shareholdings of high-end resorts and hotel facilities. In this way, the fraud's organizers are able to manage sale of apartmens in Lugano or in other swiss places before their construction, collecting capital but then without giving effectively the real estate; this because, in fact, the costruction of the latter would never have started.

Furthermore, the real estate scams in Switzerland can involve the rental of apartments too, like happened recently with some real estate listings regarding real estate of a certain profile, rented out for a very low price. For example, a recent case saw the rental of an apartment in the middle of Geneva for the price of only 900 swiss francs per month, considerably below the average rent of the area. In this way, the unaware holder was defrauded in payment of the first month's rent, only to discover the bitter truth later. But the problem concerns not only the real estate to rent in Lugano, Zürich and other swiss cities. Alternatively, it is also possible that a same subject, through appropriate real estate listings, rents the same apartment to several people, by pocketing the fees charged in advance.

The suspicious swiss real estate listings

The assumptions that resort frequently in the scope of real estate scams go from the sale of apartments at a bargain to the presence of sellers or buyers with suspicious profiles. This means that the first step to understand how protect yourself from real estate scams goes through a first critical threshold, to rise when you find out some suspicious swiss real estate listings.

These are offers for sale, for buy or for rent that contain some tricks capable to attract common people, unequipped with the adequate financial knowledge or with the real estate sector and, consequently, more exposed to attractive proposals, advantageous economic conditions, and so on. Furthermore, very often the real estate agencies are also victims of real estate scams, because fraudulent strategies have become more and more sophisticated.

From this point of view, therefore, to avoid colossal burns and the risk to lose all your money, could be useful to take stock of the main tricks used by fake buyers, fake sellers or criminal organizations with an international profile.

1) Fake entrepreneurs and business men

Technically most known with the slang word “rip deal”: they are offers that come from people which present themselves like business men or investors of a certain depth, by presenting large economic resources to encourage the accession of the unsuspicious buyer or seller.

The crooks answer to the swiss real estate listings, by contacting through e-mail the individuals or the real estate agencies for the sale, the purchase or the rental in Switzerland. Subsequently, they ask to the counterpart to meet up in very exclusive places, like clubs, trendy restaurants or luxury hotels.

In these places happens the true and proper scam: they begin by saying that, because of their position in the financial world, they can only pay the required compensation only with banknotes of large caliber (normally 500-euro), by proposing to the interlocutor an exchange with cuts of lesser value to advantageous fees. In this case the cheated rarely can notice that, inside the briefcases to exchange, there are fake banknotes, which they are hidden behind the very little true money that it is put before.

As much strange as this looks, this type of scam is more frequently than we think.

2) Princesses and soldiers

Another type of scam provides the utilisation of fake profiles and identities, maybe built around particular stories and seasoned with real elements, enough to bring down into a trap the most naive.

An example is that of an alleged princess, generally African or Arabic, who is exiled into an European country that contacts online an individual or a real estate agency asking details about the sale of apartments in Zürich. The suspect should come by the fact that in this communication normally there are not requests for informations about the real estate conditions or about the possibility to see the real estate or to negotiate the price.

This happens because the crook claims that it will pay the agreed compensation with a bank transfer, by putting forward, however, the “kindness” to have the expenses prepaid for taxes and transaction's fees. Amounts that, clearly, the cheated will never see again.

A variation of this scam sees like main character a war veteran or a soldier heavily armed, that requires a down payment for the administrative duties, in waiting to make the transfer.

3) The request of compensation up front

In this case the problem raises principally with the rentals in Zurich or, more generally, with the apartments in Switzerland and can occur in two variations.

In the first the lessor asks to the holder the payment up front of the first rent, and then leaving him high and dry when he discovered that neither the real estate nor the counterpart are still available.

Alternatively, he is the holder that answers to a rental announcement, by proceeding to the payment up front (in fact never completed) of the first rent, but then he reports to the unsuspicious owner to have proceed to pay a higher sum. If this latter is a person in good faith, having realized the mistake, he will return the surplus part through bank transfer: these are, in this case too, moneys that was stolen because the transfer of the scammer never arrived.

4) Delivery of keys by courier

This type of scam also mainly concerns those who rent a real estate. Through a fake announcement, perhaps characterized by very low fees for the area, the crook gets in touch with the interested person and, citing reasons of haste, he offers to send the keys by courier in front of a payment in advance of the rent. In this case it can be that the keys will never delivered, or that these are fake keys.

5) Sale of other's people real estate

In this case the criminal organization takes care of rent an apartment and then put it on sale, by falsyfing the documents that certify the property, only to pocket the moneys paid by the unaware buyer.


How to protect yourself from real estate scams

Those that we have been provided are only a few examples of the most different strategies that are used by scammers in the field of real estate scams.

Regarding episodes of this kind, then, it is better to adopt a prudent behaviour and consistently distrust both of the economic conditions, that although they look advantageous they can hidden a fraudulent intention, both of the personal and professional qualities of the counterpart with whom you contract, especially if this last makes particular claims or attempts to find excuses to giustify the haste of conclude the deal.

From this perspective, in fact, it is always good to take the right time to do an overall assessment of the business that you are doing, avoid to send copies of your personal documents only and, above all, not make payments up front through unsafe or traceable channels.

So, ultimately, who wants to buy or to rent a home in Switzerland (but the subject can be applied to all the real estate sector), it should always address to a competent body, like a specialized real estate agency that can presents the best guarantees to avoid to the customer the risk to fall inside real estate scams.