Housing scam targets Swedish college students

Dozens of Swedish university students desperate to find accommodation in Stockholm lost at least 350,000 kronor ($58,000) in a housing scam carried out on the popular buy-sell site Blocket.se.

The criminal gang behind the scam used fake apartment ads on Blocket to trick at least students from across Sweden into sending money.

The ads were placed throughout 2010 and into January 2011 and attracted victims as young as 19-years-old.

The house-hungry Swedish students thought they were plunking down rental deposits that would secure them a place to live in the Swedish capital, which has long had a shortage of housing for students and residents alike.

“When the housing situation looks like it does in Stockholm, it’s perhaps not so strange that so many pre-paid without actually seeing the apartment in question,” prosecutor Carl Mellberg told the Metro newspaper.

Students paid from a few thousand up to 15,000 kronor for apartments that, in reality, didn’t exist, newspaper Metro reports.

Members of the criminal gang behind the scam, three men and two women between 20- and 35-years-old, have now been charged with trading in stolen goods and money laundering.

Last autumn, a shortage of student housing in Stockholm prompted students to camp out on the grounds of Stockholm University to protest the lack of available housing.

Overall, more than 300,000 people are waiting in line for a rental contract in the Swedish capital, home to around 2 million people.

While this doesn’t mean that as many are in fact homeless, a large number live in unstable sub-let arrangements, leaving slim picking for groups, such as international students, who arrive for short term stays.

The queue for student apartments in Stockholm has increased dramatically over the past few years to 50,000 people for a housing stock of only 8,000 dwellings.

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