The last time Marko Kovic looked for an apartment in Zurich, Switzerland, he started to suspect the landlord wasn’t who she said she was. He played along, hoping to understand the methodology of the possible listing scam, and he wrote about his experience on Medium.
The scammer mentioned Cozy as a “protection company” that could ensure Marko’s advance payment of 1400 Swiss francs, and the “landlord” went so far as to put a Cozy logo on a fake invoice.
We take these types of scams seriously, especially since this one involved our name. In this case, the fraudulent landlord didn’t try to list a property through Cozy, but it’s worth noting that we’re constantly working to catch fraudulent landlords before they can list a property. We catch most scammers before they get any traction, and we want to help renters avoid all types of fraudulent “landlords” and “listings.”
We got in touch with Marko to learn more about his experience with the scammer.
You approached the listing with a healthy amount of skepticism. Why? Had you heard of other people being scammed in Zurich?
Marko: Fortunately, I don’t know anyone who has actually ended up being scammed (or maybe people just don’t like admitting it). But, unfortunately, most people in Zurich and other bigger cities in Switzerland seem to be quite aware of apartment scammers. Scammers have become something of a constant parasitic companion, it seems. I suppose the scammers wouldn’t be doing what they are doing if they didn’t succeed some of the time.
When did you know you were going to write about your interaction with “Isabella”?
Marko: As soon as “Isabella” mentioned her supposed background (living abroad and happening to have a nice place that she’d like to rent out), I thought, “Alright, this is probably yet another scam. Let’s have some fun, and waste the scammer’s time in the process.”
Why do you think they chose to use Cozy in their scheme?
Marko: I believe they wanted to create the impression that a trustworthy third party is involved. As much as it hurts me to say, that was a smart move. My first thought, fueled by the desire for the whole thing to be true, was “Well, Cozy is obviously legit, so maybe the apartment is legit as well?”
We loved your advice to apartment hunters to “curb your initial enthusiasm and analyze the facts in a level-headed, non-emotional manner.” Do you have any tips for helping people do that?
Marko: I think there’s a simple rule of thumb that can help a lot: If you are asked to send someone money in advance, before signing an apartment lease and before even seeing the place, assume that someone is trying to scam you. If you stick to this rule, I think you’re safe from most apartment scams.
Based on your experience, is there any way to ensure a landlord’s who they say they are without meeting them in person?
Marko: Renting an apartment, I believe, usually doesn’t happen with simple verbal agreements, but rather in written form with something like an apartment lease. So if a landlord is trying to forgo this “normal” way of doing things, it’s probably wise to curb your enthusiasm.
What do you expect to see from a prospective landlord before they ask you for any money?
Marko: In my opinion, it should always be possible to have a look at an apartment before signing a lease, let alone sending anyone any money.
Have you seen any fake listings since this incident?
Marko: I think I have, but I haven’t reacted to them. Not in the least because fake listings tend have a somewhat short half-life. Take the money and run, so to say.
We hope you found a great apartment! Did you find a great apartment?
Marko: Thank you so much—as a matter of fact, I did!