Student housing rental scams and how to avoid them
“There is a large chunk of international students who are scammed and don’t even report the issues”
Student rental scams have become rampant among students booking accommodation in recent times when every process is done online, Thanks to Lockdowns. These scams are usually common in big cities like London, Manchester, New York, Melbourne, etc, where the demand is high to find suitable accommodation.
A student housing scam is when someone attempts to scam you out of your money by selling you a fake room or apartment.
According to the FBI, just in the US in 2021, 11,578 people lost $350,328 due to rental scams. This is a 64% increase compared to 2020. These are only the losses that were reported to the police.
There is a large chunk of international students who are scammed and don’t even report it to the police or concerned authorities. Most scams occur in big cities where demand is high and accommodations are expensive.
Scammers usually target young students as they are unaware of the local rules of the city. As per Ireland’s National Police, in 2022 there was a 50% rise in victims of rental scams among students that are below the age of 25.
Students need to be vigilant so that they do not fall prey to scammers.
There are three major types of rental scams which a student should be aware of, namely:
- Hijacked Advertisement: The scammer will copy the legitimate advertisement and change some details, such as the price or the location of the property. The scammer will then contact the victim and offer to rent them a room in this fake accommodation.
- Clickbait Advertisement: The Scammer will contact the student about an apartment that doesn’t even exist and will make false promises on easy rental payments, discounts, etc. Once they deposit money into their account, you may never see it again.
- Self-Promotion: These online ads typically mention that the advertiser is an ultra-rich individual and is looking for student rentals or he is a student and wants to help other students by connecting them with their wonderful and honest landlord, who doesn’t exist.
With our experience of handling more than 800k students via, 173 Facebook and 192 WhatsApp housing groups, we can surely say that Facebook and WhatsApp are heavens for scammers as all the interactions are online.
Many students search for accommodations via many of these social media groups that are created for housing search in a particular city, by genuine student rental companies. These groups have become hot targets for scammers and they are a whole bunch. We have full-time employees, just to clean up our social groups to save our students.
With all our experience, we have some recommendations for students which will save them from losing their hard-earned money.
- Never pay advance to anyone without viewing the property.
- Anyone asking to pay money via Crypto is a cent percent scam.
- For international students, due to location constraints, try sending your friend to see the property.
- Try building relations with seniors or alumni to get their experiences about a particular property, which you are considering. Linkedin can be a very useful tool for this and also can help you in professional networking.
- Whether it is Facebook or Linkedin, do always validate the person by digging in a little bit in their profile. Look for information like how old is the profile, connections, profession, recommendation, etc.
- For local students, do check if the landlord is a real owner via the local council.
- No ultra-rich landlords have time to write hundreds of the same comments to find students to rent their properties. They instead hire student rental companies like ours to market their properties. So, if someone is spamming or self-promoting, or promoting his/her landlord, it is a big red flag.
- As HomeLodgers, all the properties on our website are verified and viewable for students, and for international students, we do provide services like virtual viewing, leasing, moving in from the airport, and many more. So, with companies like ours, the chances of getting scammed are absolutely zero.
- Lastly, no stranger is going to offer you cheap student accommodation or special student rental rates. Just use your common sense.
About the author: Prajwal Ikhar is Co-Founder of www.HomeLodgers.com.