Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Scamble

So Matt and I figured we'd find accommodations in Europe after we got here. Of course we hadn't thought too far ahead of ourselves. That would be prudent. Instead we over packed, and are now desperate to find somewhere to live - mainly to drop off a bunch of our crap.

We started in the expat community websites and estate agent websites looking for a flat to rent in the Amsterdam area for around 1000€ per month. Since we only want to stay 3 to 6 months, it narrows our qualifying pool. We then moved onto and trolled around there. We made the decision to also start looking for flatshares - which is actually a better idea for us. It's cheaper, and we aren't leaving an empty home when we go for trips around Europe. I formulated a response for the majority of flats and shares, and started firing off dozens of emails to people the first night in Copenhagen. I think we're pretty sellable, but the craigslist community isn't so lax. We

We only got one response, and we received it fairly quickly, while we were still in Copenhagen. The guy described himself and the place he had for rent. Stated as ~30 years old, Masters student, in England for 6 to 18 months for studying. The location seemed entertaining - it was addressed at 12 Damrak, Amsterdam 1012. That's basically right outside Centraal, in the heart of the tourist and "destination" neighbourhood. The cost was crazy good, and it came furnished. Thinking that we had found something to good to be true, we flirted with the idea of it being a scam. We searched the guy out on google, found nothing much. Noting found, nothing feared.

We stayed in contact with this guy, and altered our travel plans accordingly. We chose to come to A'dam quickly (Hence only 2 nights in Hamburg). Partly to feel more secure about the deal, and partly to continue looking for a place. Neither of us are optimists by nature, so the possibility of this not working for unknown reasons was still foremost in our minds.

We got to the stage of tenancy contract and money arrangements the first night in Hamburg. The guy wanted a form of I.D. to confirm our interest and legitimacy in the contract. We sent off the front copy of my Ontario Driver's Licence. We then received a soft copy of the tenancy agreement, and the method of money delivery, as well as a passport image. Matt and I re-read everything, checked the legitimacy of the passport, and slept a night before delivering our response. I kept wondering about the extraordinarily odd phrasing of his sentences - especially after discovering that me was American.

We weren't comfortable sending the guy 1100€ without a set of keys, or seeing the place. We negotiated either a split payment, with the remainder due on getting the keys; or a wire transfer to a bank account. We then got an email that settled the nagging suspicion. He would gladly accept a split payment, or even a wire transfer. But he would have to ask a friend/coworker for a bank account, as he only had an online e-cash account. That is shady. Moneygram is shady. Craigslist is shady. Further research showed the Cost:Locale was shady. Matt then told me we could image search and compare.

We used Lo and Behold! Our furnished apartment did exist. In Rome. As a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom; patio laden beauty. It weren't in A'dam. It wasn't real. I emailed the guy with a link and a request for explanation. I didn't need one. We already knew.

Sometimes, being an overly cynical, untrusting bastard is worth it. Hopes were dashed - but only mildly. Now, are we concerned enough to contact Interpol?

We're now searching Dutch websites and looking around the area for flatshares. Something will turn up. It's easier being here and looking.


  1. i don't know if it was with you that i was discussing this, or saw this, or that you told me about it, but i remember hearing that these kinds of scams happen A LOT in europe, to ppl exactly like you: travelers looking for short term stuff, generally looking from not-the-location. pls pls pls don't give anyone money without seeing the place. keys are easy to fake.
    anyway, rome could be cool, but i commend you on not wanting to do the much trodden spain/france/italy/germany route.
    you'll find some place.
    also, you didn't over-pack, i saw your stack of stuff, you were quite minimalistic, it's just that general sweating, dropping of stuff, catching clothes on stuff, and other klutzyness is unavoidable when you're turtle-ing your life, so it feels like you've
    got ridiculous amounts of stuff even if you don't.
    <3 <3 <3

  2. props for the keen use of tineye, glad to hear you guys weren't had. <4

    ( <4 is better than <3, right? )