Students are more frequently turning to the web to find properties to rent during their study, but some fall prey to fraudulent adverts by which, when students enquire about the property, they are asked for proof they can afford the rent.
The fraudulent landlords who post the adverts require prospective tenants to transfer money as holding deposits without visiting the property, or to prove they have money in order to rent by transferring money to a friend and sending proof.
Fraudulent adverts most often appear on free advertising web sites as there is no cost to advertise the fake property.
The easiest way to avoid being victim to these scammers is to use your common sense – if the price or location looks to good, then it probably is!
Follow these top tips to avoid losing out:
- Never pay a 'holding deposit’, rent or any money without visiting a property. Satisfy yourself that the landlord is legitimate and has rights to rent the property and take a friend.
- Avoid paying money online. Payments should not be made via money transfer companies such as Western Union and Moneygram; their advice is clear - only use money transfer to send money to people that you know and trust. Never respond to a 'Proof of Funds' scam where you are requested to 'send money to a friend' and then send the details of the transaction to the ‘seller’ to show they have sufficient money to pay a deposit. These result in the ‘seller’ withdrawing the funds using forged identification.
- Beware of money mules (people who are used by criminals to receive money and then withdraw it to send somewhere else, usually by using a fake story or ‘job offer’). The safest way is to make a payment by credit card in person at a letting agents’ office. A formal contract should be signed before any money changes hands.
- Make sure the advert looks legitimate: avoid adverts with no photographs of the property or where multiple adverts have the same photographs.
- Check the contact details: Look for telephone numbers that are based in the UK. Often rental scam adverts only allow contact via email, however, also be wary of telephone numbers beginning 070, which are non-geographic business numbers. Check that landline numbers work as these are often fax numbers that fraudsters find on the internet.
- Use a trusted letting agent or landlord: ask your students’ union or accommodation office about trusted or approved lists or look for accreditation membership, such as NALS, RICS, or ARLA, so if something does happen you will have a system of redress.
- Protect your deposit: Where a deposit is taken other than a 'holding deposit', the money must be paid into a deposit scheme approved by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Further information about the scheme and tenant's rights can be found on the Department for Communities and Local Government website.
For more information, click here.