People in France are being warned to watch out for fake housing scams after numerous people have fallen foul of false property adverts.
In recent weeks in Toulouse, the number of fake adverts for housing in the city has been multiplying.
One woman who almost fell victim has shared her story in the hope it will alert others to the crooks’ methods.
Anne and her partner thought they had found a gem of a property to rent on the popular French property website SeLoger.com.
Instead, they narrowly avoided losing hundreds of pounds in a well orchestrated scam.
The property in question was a small house with a garden in the area of Blagnac in Toulouse, which was being offered for €845 per month.
Anne quickly responded to the landlord’s advert to say that she was interested.
The landlord replied to say that their children were currently living in the property but that they would soon be leaving to live in Corsica.
They claimed that the reason for putting the house up for rent was to ensure it did not lie empty while they were away.
While this first exchange seemed normal, as the contact continued Anne became more suspicious.
A few hours later, the supposed landlord organised a meeting with Anne near the town hall in Blagnac - without offering to show her the property.
He asked her to bring a quittance de loyer (proof of paid rent) for her current accommodation, her work contract, bank account details, proof of address and a copy of her identity card.
She found this strange but finally realised it was a scam when the landlord said he would not accept bank transfer nor cheque and required a deposit of €1,700 paid by Transcash - untraceable tickets sold in French tabacs.
Anne decided not to take the communication any further and thus avoided the scam but many people have not been so lucky.
Scams are particularly prevalent during this time of year as students search for accommodation in what is often a tough market.
The crooks rely on people being desperate for accommodation to be able to head back to their studies.
Similar stories are true in all the major French cities with people frequently tricked into paying thousands of euros that they never see again.
The police have warned people not to give any papers or proof of identity to a potential landlord before visiting a property as these can be used to steal people’s identities.
They say that often people orchestrating these scams live hundreds of kilometres away from the location.