The 'ghost rental' scam: "Rage, fear and helplessness"

"Through a website of rental ads we found a flat that seemed designed for us." Thus begins the story of Elena –fictitious name–, like that of other victims deceived by false offers of housing rentals whose purpose is none other than to extract personal data from those affected. From the Arrenta insurance comparator they explain that as of spring their non-payment insurance contracting department for rentals began to receive inquiries from users who had allegedly sent data such as the DNI, the last payroll and the income statement for a financial study. The reality is that none of this data had reached the insurer and one or more intermediaries had used the name of the company to obtain the data and use it for their own benefit. It is the case of Elena. She was looking for a flat with her partner in the Madrid neighborhood of Chamberí, a renovated house of at least 60 square meters. The lack of supply and the high price of rentals in the capital of Madrid make the search difficult, limiting the options and especially valuing those that seem affordable, a factor of psychological pressure that reinforces the position of scammers. The joy was short-lived «It was in a community with green areas, 75 square meters, from 2018 and at a price that was on average 25% lower than apartments with similar characteristics in the area. It was rented by an individual, he insisted that he would not rent through an agency and we congratulated ourselves when we called him and that he would confirm that it was still not rented, ”says Elena, although their joy did not last long. As a requirement to see the flat, the individual requested their ID, payroll and income tax return to carry out rental insurance with Arrenta. Once delivered, the scammer stopped responding to phone calls and emails over the next few days and the ad disappeared without explanation. When going to the Police, they were informed that there was no crime to report, since the extracted data has not been used by the scammers. “Now we have a mixture of anger, fear and helplessness, because we don't know what they can do in the future with all the information they have. We think that there should be tools that help the victim and prosecute this type of crime, because what we are experiencing now are moments of uneasiness, "says Elena. The parallel business From the National Police they affirm that there are organized groups behind this type of scam and that sometimes they also manage to extract the advance or deposit of the rents. However, the personal data captured is their objective, since thanks to them they have the ability to open online accounts and use them to move fraudulent funds and do not directly affect the direct prejudice that money theft implies. In some cases, fraudsters have even been notified of submitting income tax returns by impersonating the identity of the victim. Obtaining this personal data is also an advantage for this business model. By being able to supplant the identity of those affected, the use of intermediaries or 'mules' is avoided, whose name is used to register accounts where fraudulent activities such as money laundering or as a link for capital movements can be carried out. By avoiding the intermediary, they avoid an additional cost and cut off a possible starting point for police investigations and the subsequent dismantling of these groups. In this way, these parallel businesses are "much more opaque and difficult to dismantle," says the chief inspector of the National Police and head of the Electronic Commerce section, Diego Alejandro. Consequences and rights In addition, he adds that work is being done on the incorporation of this type of crime in the Civil Code to allow agents to have more capacity to pursue and end the fraudulent business after false rental advertisements. Although there is no crime as such, these practices involve "illegal data collection, because there is a deception in capturing them and, therefore, there is no free and informed consent," says Borja Adsuara, an expert in Digital Law. Therefore, it would conflict with the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union of 2016, which ensures the protection of privacy and the correct use of personal data by companies. From the main real estate portals in which these ads are published, they have specific verification teams to check their authenticity, although sometimes it may not be enough. MORE INFORMATION Rental prices accelerate in the heat of regulatory ups and downs Housing is approaching bubble prices in the midst of an inflationary outbreak The consumer has the option of verifying the true owner of the home in a query to the Property Registry by requesting a note simple or, in the case of being a company, the name of the company. Likewise, there is the possibility of checking the activity of the company that owns the home to find out if it is an active company and with healthy accounts. The Tecnocasa group warns that prices that are well below the market must always be distrusted. They also recommend trusting and working with experienced industry professionals who you can talk to directly, make an appointment with, and have an agent to guide you through the process.

Source link