“We have noticed an increase in this kind of fraud recently. We get a report more or less every week about suspicious adverts,” said one of the editors from the site, Studentlya.se to the local Östersundsposten daily.
The group that are mostly at risk of being swindled are foreign students with no way of viewing the flat before agreeing to rent.
When journalists at Östersundsposten searched for flats in their local area they found two that were fake.
In one of the properties a tenant told them that this was not the first time she had heard of apartments being advertised in the house, despite there being no available flats.
“About a year ago I saw three students who stood outside looking at the property. They had seen an advert and asked me if I was a tenant,” she told the paper.
After she told her landlord about the incident he subsequently reported the matter to the police.
When journalists looked up another flat advertised as available in the Östersund area, it turned out to be situated on a non-existent address.
Both ads were written in English and offered student digs in the “best location”, “fully equipped” and one of them bragged a whopping 4,000 square metres for 6,000 kronor ($930) a month.
After the paper notified the site about the fake adverts they were removed immediately.
The site has now issued a warning to its users. Anyone looking for digs should first ensure that the flat actually exists, avoid paying any deposit before seeing the apartment and make sure that the person letting the flat actually have the right to do so.
Furthermore, prospective tenants should exert caution with any payments going abroad through “anonymous” payment methods such as Pay Pal or Western Union, according to the site. Instead they should insist on paying their rent into an account of a recognised Swedish bank.
However, it has been known to happen that the fraudsters hijack identities in order to prove that they are real Swedes, according to the paper.
Another warning sign could be that the rent or the deposit seems too low for the area or for what is on offer.
According to the editors of Studentlya, they are not the only ones to have noticed this kind of development. Blocket.se, another market site on the internet, has also been affected.
There isn’t much that can be done about the problem, according to the editors.
Theoretically the fraudsters’ IP-addresses could be traced but this would require information gathering on a large scale as well as international cooperation between police in different countries, as the swindlers often operate from abroad.
“The police have never contacted us, so I guess they don’t prioritise these cases,” the editor told Östersundsposten.
The housing crisis for students in Sweden is said to be at an all time high with 270,000 students registered to study at Swedish universities in the autumn.