Fraudsters are targeting college and university students ahead of the start of the new term with fake lettings in local accommodation, taking advantage of the huge demand to collect fees up front to secure a deposit.
The 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 websites 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 accommodation 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 their online fraud reporting tool.
For more information about our work, please visit www.safeinwarwickshire.com/cybercrime
Be Cyber Streetwise is a cross-government campaign, funded by the National Cyber Security Programme. They aim to measurably and significantly improve the online safety behaviour and confidence of consumers and small businesses (SMEs).
Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety. Their website offers advice on how you can protect yourself, your computers and devices, and your business against the likes of fraud, identity theft, viruses and other potential online problems.