September 5th 2016
College and university students seeking accommodation ahead of the start of the new term, are being targeted by fraudsters. You are warned to be wary of advertisements for fake lettings – exploiting the massive demand to collect fees up front to secure a deposit.
Autumn months see a big rise in rental market properties, with first-year freshers and returning students looking online to find houses or flats for let. Bogus adverts appearing on a series of websites are offering houses which are already rented out to other tenants, not owned by the landlord or do not even exist in the area advertised.
Fraudsters are advertising properties to rent at attractive rates and in excellent locations to lure in victims. Adverts will seem genuine and are accompanied by photos and contact information. However, fake landlords then trick victims who show interest into handing over a fee even before they have had an opportunity to view the house or flat, claiming the property is in high demand and will be off the market if they do not act quickly.
How to avoid accommodation rental fraud
If you are searching for student accommodation:
· Use only reputable letting companies.
· Carry out some online research such as using Google Maps, to check that the property actually exists.
· Make an appointment to view the property in person, and always view it on the inside prior to paying any advance fees.
If a landlord requests money up front:
· Be wary. Landlords should never ask for a ‘holding deposit’ due to high demand.
· Do not feel pressured into handing over money, however desperate you may be to secure accommodation. Genuine landlords usually want to know they are getting the right tenants first – by requesting background checks such as employment or character references before asking for any fees.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.