A breakdown of a Homegate scam

Homegate is a brilliant resource for those people searching for property in Switzerland. Certainly, it is the website where 99.9% of publicly-available properties are listed, especially within the very competitive rental market.

The problem arises with the volume of fake ads on Homegate; many scammers want to exploit the high demand and low supply of many rental markets in Switzerland by “creating” a supply of properties, advertising them, duping people into paying something for them and then fading into the background.

How can they achieve this? It’s easy; the service offers listings for free. “Find a new tenant for free,” it says. And they do!

Free scams here

What could possibly go wrong?

Let us begin with the variety of adverts on Homegate. They tend to be all very different with some having images, some having text, some having both, some having location, languages being very flexible – it’s a melting pot. The majority of adverts on Homegate are legitimate but there are quiet a few that are not.

So what are the tell-tale signs?

  • The property is listed with a very cheap price. Remarkably so, given the prices in the market
  • Perfect pictures. Staged pictures that may or may not be CAD images but make the place look like a human never set foot in it
  • A lack of a phone number and possibly a name; alternately, the name will not be a typical Swiss name
  • The advert is in English (after all, in certain regions, the market in terms of viewings is more than 50% English-speaking – This is Switzerland after all….)
  • The text is short and not particular descriptive – but might feel “attractive”
  • The places are available immediately. After all, they don’t want to wait for you to transfer your money to them (more on that later)
This is the apartment you’re looking for

When places look a little too perfect and not lived in, they might actually be that…

You’re picturing yourself enjoying the evening sun here?

The text may also be vague and short. And not really tell you about the property but try to convince you that you like it.

Blah blah blah

Location, Location, Location. 2 rooms in this area at this price will have a lot of people interested in it, especially if it is available immediately.

What Happens Next?

If you contact these places, you will find they are interested to close the deal and quickly. In terms of deal, the deal is you parting with your money and them sitting somewhere happily with your money.

First I have to inform you that the price you pay for the first month’s rent is 1500 CHF(money for the first month you move into my apartment) and I also ask for a security (deposit) of 1500 CHF, you have to pay a total of 3000 CHF so that you can move into my apartment without additional costs.

Of course, directly to the money.

I am willing to send you the keys so you can view and check the apartment. Key collection and rental agreement (signed by me) will be completed by Airbnb (www.airbnb.com (not a real Airbnb link)), they will also help us with 3rd party transaction so you can feel safe with this deal.

The Airbnb link is (or was) a Sendgrid link.

To start the transaction with Airbnb you need to send me all this information:

Full name:



Postal code:


Date you want to match with the one in the apartment:

Now let me tell you how to close the deal:

How you rip me off you mean?

After all this information I can go to the Airbnb office and start the transaction. When they have the keys and the real estate company takes care of them, they will happily send you a shipping notification saying they have the keys and all the documents.

Airbnb office? I must have not noticed the sign next to the Western Union money transfer office I passed.

When you receive Airbnb’s delivery notification, you need to go to your bank’s branch and transfer the money of the agreed amount (3000 CHF). I’m telling you that your payment must be confirmed within 24 hours or sooner of the start of the transaction.

That will be the email you send to me “from” Airbnb through Homegate?

After you’ve paid the deposit, Airbnb will require you to send proof of payment for the wire transfer so they know you’ve already paid the deposit. Airbnb will verify the payment and deliver the keys and rent to you within 48 hours if everything is ok. Airbnb will send an agent to your front door and this person will come with you to inspect the apartment to see if everything is ok.

If you are satisfied with the apartment, sign the lease. However if for any reason you are not happy with the apartment the agent will refund you immediately and I will return my keys and papers (I will write on the rental agreement to ensure you get your money back).

I cannot imagine where this lease document might be. At the Airbnb office, next to Western Union perhaps?

Even if you have another apartment at the moment and are not moving immediately, we can make the deal as I have explained now and just consider it an inspection and reservation until you are able to move it.

Soooooo nice!

I pay for the agency services, so there are no costs for you.

And no costs for you. Because there is no apartment?

I am waiting for your quick reply because others are interested in the apartment and I need to know if I can count on a deal with you.

I think you’re actually scamming them too. But you can count on me.

Thank you and have a nice day!

You too!

This is one example of the scam being run through Homegate; the other option is that the scammer will invite you directly into email where the scam will continue.


Do remember that Gmail accounts work with dots randomly through the email address; the above image is an email address I’ve seen with some dots in (after all, multiple email addresses are an overhead for the scammer). The name in the advert did not match this name.

Now with dots

There are plenty of reliable advertisers on Homegate so do not let this story impact you, rather educate and help you spot the fake adverts from scammers.