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Caution - internet scams

Caution - internet scams

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: 

  • Never pay cash or make a money transfer to someone for accommodation until you have been shown the inside of the accommodation and checked the identitiy of the landlord.
  • Never enter into a tenancy agreement before you have seen the accommodation concerned.
  • Before making any payment of money for accommodation, ask the person contacted for details of the landlord, the address of the property and proof that s/he owns the property.
  • Never give your bank, credit or debit card details to anyone you contact online about accommodation.
  • Check who owns the property by conducting a 'title register' search via the Land Registry website (under the 'Title deeds' section). There is a £3 charge for this service, but this is a small amount to pay compared with how much you could lose if you are a victim of a scam.



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