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Students scammed into renting bogus houses and flats

1st September 2016

Fraudsters are targeting college and university students ahead of the start of the new term with fake lettings in local accommodation, taking advantage of huge 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 for let. Bogus adverts appearing on a series of website are offering houses which are already rented out to other tenants, not owned by the landlord or don’t 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’ve had a chance to view the house or flat, claiming the property is in high demand and will be off the market if they don’t act fast.

How to avoid accomodation rental fraud

If you’re searching for student accommodation:

  • Only use reputable letting companies.
  • Do some online research such as using Google maps to check the property does exist.
  • Make an appointment to view the property in person, and always view the property prior to paying any advance fees.

If a landlord requests money upfront:

  • Be wary. Landlords should never ask for a ‘holding deposit’ due to high demand.
  • Don't feel pressured into handing over money. Landlords usually want to know they’re getting the right tenants first  - they’ll request 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 our online fraud reporting tool.

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