Students are being warned to be alert when renting accommodation ahead of the new term.
Police and Action Fraud are say that fraudsters are targeting college and university students with fake lettings in local accommodation.
With a huge demand for housing, the scammers can take advantage by collecting fees up front to secure a deposit.
The autumn months can 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 either already rented out to other tenants, not owned by the landlord or in some cases not even existing in the area advertised.
Fraudsters are advertising properties to rent at attractive rates and in excellent locations to lure in victims. The adverts may seem genuine, being accompanied by images of the property 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.
Action Fraud has issued the following advice to students looking to rent a property:
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.
More at the Action Fraud website: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-rental-fraud. To report a fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040