Mathilde Leestmans was looking fora n affordable home to rent in Antwerp. She saw what she thought was a great offer on Immo. However, it proved to be too good to be true. When she asked to visit the flat she was told that she couldn’t do so straight away. “I was given a strange answer. I needed to register on Home Away, a kind of Airbnb site, and pay a deposit of 1,550 euro”, Ms Leestmans told VRT News.
She was told that her deposit would be refunded if she decided not to rent the flat.
Mathilde Leestmans became suspicious and decided to go and look at the flat. “As soon as I arrived I noticed that the windows were different to those shown on the photograph that the building was empty, there were no letter boxes and there was no 3rd floor which is where my flat was supposed to be”.
Mathilde found a photograph featuring the same flat as the one advertised as being up for rent in Antwerp. However, this time the flat was on the holiday accomodation site Booking.com. Furthermore, it was being advertised as holiday accomodation in Brussels.
The Federal Police told VRT News that it is aware of the issue and that it wishes to warn those seeking accomodation online to be on their guard.
"Immoweb is the most frequently used website by people I know that are looking for a house or flat. I was convince that I was using a very safe site. However, it would appear that anyone can just post things on it. I was quite shocked”, Mathilde Leestmans said.
Immoweb: “Just a handful of fraudulent ads”
Immoweb says that it is doing all it can to protect its site from fraudsters. The site’s COO Tom Kestens told VRT News that
"Every day colleagues in our team track down advertisements that are too good to be true. We try and these offline straight after publication. We are relatively successful, but now and then one slips through the net”. .
Furthermore, the fact that you have to pay to advertise on Immoweb serves to deter some fraudsters.
Mathilde Leestmans didn’t pay the con artists and was not defrauded. The advertisement has also been removed. Immoweb advises those using its site to report suspicious advertisements straight away and to never transfer money in advance before a rental agreement is signed.
"We take every report seriously”, Tom Kestens said.
Meanwhile, the police advise victims of fraud to report it straight away.