How to protect yourself against internet fraud?
1) What is internet fraud?
In case of internet fraud, individuals with bad intentions try to mislead you with some kind of swindle; on many occasions by promising you a certain service in exchange for money. To attain their goal, these fraudsters can use all kinds of different and sometimes even extreme techniques. This page aims to provide a description of the different types of fraud you could fall victim to, as well as explain how you can protect yourself against these kinds of attacks. Remember: when an ad on our website seems too good to be true, it usually is!
2) What kinds of internet fraud exist and how can you stop yourself from falling victim to these?
Internet fraud appears frequently, in many shapes and sizes:
a) Ad fraud:
On Immoweb.be, illegitimate ads appear on numerous occasions. In order to get what they want, fraudsters post false ads on our website (likely by using stolen credit cards). These ads, mostly just too good to be true, offer houses for rental far below the going market rates.
When you show interest in one of these false ads, the poster will reply that the building cannot be visited at that moment (e.g. because the owner is abroad), but that you will receive the keys in the post after you wired a certain amount of money (in general one month of rent). As soon as you completed the transaction, you will not hear anything anymore and you will have lost your money.
• Be vigilant for ads that offer a rate that is too good to be true;
• In case of doubt, never agree to anything without having visited the property;
• Be extra careful when the phone number or e-mail address of the owner or real estate office seem strange (wrong number, no reply or no telephone number at all);
• Never transfer any money as a deposit or to receive the keys without having met the owner or real estate agent;
• Always remain vigilant when you are asked to transfer money via e.g. Western Union. These payments are anonymous, so tracing the fraudsters afterwards will prove to be mission impossible;
• Remember that Immoweb never acts as a mediator for transactions between potential buyers or renters and the person who posted the ad on Immoweb.
IMPORTANT: When you discover a false ad, please report this immediately by clicking ‘Report a mistake’ on the right-hand side.
Phishing is a fraud technique particularly aimed at finding out sensitive information, such as your user name, password or credit card details, with the actual intention to steal your identity. Phishing can be done via e-mail, text and instant messaging (Facebook, WhatsApp, …). The fraudsters will try and get personal information from you, falsely pretending Immoweb needs these details.
Once the fraudsters succeeded in their mission, they will use your login to place false ads on Immoweb (see section a) Ad fraud). Usually these fraudsters will use URLs that closely resemble the Immoweb URLs, but aren’t identical. They can also use your login data to access other services you might use the same details for (Google mail, Facebook, banking app, …).
How can you protect yourself?
• Always check the hyperlinks in the message by hovering over them with the cursor, but without clicking on them. Check whether the address bar in your browser mentions the URL https://www.immoweb.be, as well as “Immoweb SA/NV[BE]”. Right before the URL in the address bar, a little hanging lock should appear. Be aware of URLs that resemble the Immoweb URL very closely, but still are slightly different.
o Examples of website addresses that are NOT affiliated with Immoweb:
• Never enter your Immoweb login details (user name, password…) on another website appearing to offer one of our services (i.e. immoweb-someothersite.com or reimbursement-immoweb.com);
• Keep in mind that Immoweb will never ask your user name or password in an e-mail, text, Facebook or WhatsApp message;
• Do not use the same password for different website accounts (Facebook, Google, Immoweb). The more you use unique passwords, the more protected you will be against possible account hacks, even after a successful phishing attempt.
c) 419 fraud:
In case of 419 fraud or Nigerian fraud, gullible victims are approached by fraudsters via electronic messages (email, Facebook, WhatsApp, …) and asked to get in touch. Most times the fraudsters claim to have a significant sum of money, that for some reason has been blocked or is not available to them at that point. In order to release this money, the fraudsters will ask a financial contribution and in exchange will promise to give part of their money.
In case of Immoweb it is possible that an owner or a real estate agent is contacted via our website by someone interested in a certain ad. This kind of fraudsters pose as foreign investors, keen to invest in real estate in Belgium. They will appear to be intending to move to Belgium, but that they will need your financial help, since for some reason or another their funds have been frozen at that moment. After the owner or real estate agent has transferred the money, they will not only never hear from the scam artist again, their money will have gone also.
How can you protect yourself?
- Never send money to people you don’t know, no matter what financial windfalls they promise;
- Use your common sense. When something appears too good to be true, this is mostly the case. When strangers ask you for significant sums of money, this always is a scam. Never reply to such messages but delete them immediately or report them when possible.
3) What to do when you have fallen victim to internet fraud?
Was your credit card used without your consent for transactions on Immoweb or another website? Contact Card Stop immediately via phone number 070 344 344, as well as your bank.
Have you become a victim of internet fraud via Immoweb? Contact one of our service team members via [email protected].
You can also report this incident to the official bodies via https://meldpunt.belgie.be/meldpunt/en/welcome.