Renting For Members

Italian rental scams: ‘As soon as we handed over the money, we kissed it goodbye'

Jessica Lionnel
Jessica Lionnel - [email protected]
Italian rental scams: ‘As soon as we handed over the money, we kissed it goodbye'
Italy is a dream destination for many, but for new arrivals who encounter rental scams the experience can turn into a nightmare. (Photo by JOE RAEDLE / Getty Images via AFP)

Misleading ads, demands for upfront payment, and fake online accounts are all part and parcel of rental scams in Italy. The Local’s readers told us about their experiences.

Looking to move? Find your next rental apartment here.


Moving to Italy comes with many perks, but finding a place to live can prove difficult at times. Alongside competition in bigger cities such as Milan and Rome, rental scamming is also a huge issue in Italy.

In October 2023 the number of people renting rose by 1.7 percent compared to the same month of the previous year. And people looking for a place to rent in Italy tend to use methods such as Facebook groups, alongside estate agency sites, in their search. This would not have been the case ten years ago. 

Whilst there are no exact official figures to demonstrate how many rental scams occur yearly, looking online at forums and posts paints the picture that it happens frequently.

One such story is that of Gina Wolfe, a Bagno a Ripoli resident who transferred to the Tuscan town from South Carolina in the US last March. Both Gina and her husband came here on an elective residency visa after making the decision to live in Italy during some of their retirement years.

The couple were having difficulty finding a two-bedroom apartment in Florence for two reasons: firstly, they are young retirees, and landlords thought they were a scam. 

READ ALSO: The 8 red flags to look out for to avoid rental scams in Italy

Secondly, they were losing out due to the amount of competition in Florence. That was until they stumbled upon an advertisement from a company named Affitto Privato.

“There was one listing that we saw cropping up over and over from the company that fit our exact requirements,” Gina said.  “We asked our agent who was based in Florence if she had heard of them and she hadn’t but she had seen their listings.”

At this time, the couple were still in the States but had arranged to arrive in Florence in October 2022 to check out properties. They went to Affitto Privato’s office to check if the property was still available. When they got there everything appeared legitimate; there was a desk, a back office, pictures of houses and two professionally dressed staff. 

Florence, one of Italy's most famous tourist destinations, has fierce competition for apartments - and there are reported attempts to scam house-hunters. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)


Gina had heard of the scamming issue in Italy before arriving and checked forums to see if this company was legitimate. In her search, nothing negative about them came up.

“It seemed like a very normal and credible agency,” Gina continued. “They asked us to put down 250 euros to access their database for properties and when I asked them if the one we were interested in was still available, they responded ‘yes’ and so we filled out an application and paid the 250 euros.”

The agents at Affitto Privato said Gina would receive a text message within four hours with the owner’s details. What she got instead was three contact details from people whose apartments she was not interested in.

READ ALSO: How to find a longer-term apartment rental in Italy

“Naturally, I called all three, to see what was happening,” Gina added. “One person wouldn’t respond, one person was furious because this company kept on calling them, and one person had already rented their property out.

“I was mad and went back to the office for an explanation. They were shocked to see me there and they only said ‘ahh sometimes it happens and people don’t update us.’ 

“Even when we got back to the States, we received no new messages from them with more apartments whatsoever. As soon as we handed over the money, we kissed it goodbye.”


The Local has attempted to contact Affitto Privato by phone and email, but received no response. On their site, they say they act as an intermediary service and have offices based in Milan, Rome, Turin, Bologna and of course Florence. Their rating score on Trustpilot for the Rome branch has a one-star majority. 

For Gina and her husband, the experience was entirely negative. They wanted to move in January 2023 rather than March 2023. On the plus side, they both found their current apartment through another agency that fits in with their requirements and that they are content with.

“The lucky thing is that 250 euros wasn’t going to make or break us,” Gina said. “But a lot of people don’t have that extra type of cash and I feel bad for them. Our story turned out fine in the end, but it was infuriating. I can't imagine being a college student.”

READ ALSO: Can my landlord legally increase my rent in Italy?

For former college student Heya Hegazy, finding an apartment to rent in Milan when she lived there was no easy feat. She says she was almost scammed out of 1,000 euros during her time as an architecture student at Politecnico Milano. 

The 29-year-old came across a Facebook post two years ago under the name Anna Kaiser. The apartment was ideal for her as it was modern and close enough to the centre. However, she noticed a few red flags as communication with ‘Anna’ went on.


“I asked for a virtual tour of an apartment and I got an email saying we’d love to help out but we are in Berlin right now and we cannot offer you a tour,” Haya said.  "It also read that before they come from Berlin to show us around, they require a security deposit to ensure financial stability.

“That’s when I realised something was amiss. I am not 12 years old and I will not transfer money for something I have never seen, no matter how good it looks.”

Haya said the person behind the email stressed the security deposit would be paid back to her and that not giving them the money was unfair to others trying to secure the holding.

“I refused point blank and shortly after the Facebook post and Anna Kaiser’s account were deleted. It was extremely strange because in the photos the apartment seemed real, so I don’t know whose apartment they used to take the photos. It looked lived in and it was convincing,” Haya continued. 


She said she felt ‘flattened’ by the experience as she was searching for her and her now husband's first place to live in. The process was supposed to be exciting rather than stressful. 

“I do feel as though I lost hope,” Haya added. “We were obviously targets and it must have been easy for them to try. I will never know ‘Anna Kaiser’s’ real name.”

If you believe you have encountered a rental scam in Italy, you are advised to report the case to the Guardia di Finanza, Italy's financial police. See some of the warning signs of potential scams to look out for.

Have you seen or fallen victim to a rental scam in Italy? Share your experience in the comments section below or contact us via email.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also