The University of London Housing Services has warned us of some internet scams operating in London. Here is what they have advised:
"(February 2008) We have received a number of reports from students who have fallen victim to accommodation “scams” after responding to advertisements on Gumtree. Commonly, students are asked to hand over cash or make a money transfer (via Western Union or other company) as a deposit and/or advance rent for a property to someone purporting to be the owner of the property, or their agent. Typically, the student is shown pictures of the inside and/or outside of the property, given a tenancy agreement and advised to turn up at the property on the day they are due to move in. In other cases the “scammer” had even obtained a key to the property and was able to show the student around the property. When the student turns up to move in as arranged there is no one to meet them and they subsequently discover that the owner/agent is someone else. By then, of course, the perpetrator has disappeared with the money and the student is left without somewhere to live and several hundred pounds less in their bank account."
We advise students to be very careful when using Gumtree, or any other website, when looking for accommodation. In particular we offer the following advice: