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How to Avoid Being Scammed

What is a scam?

A scam is when a person tricks. In the case of a rental scam, a person tricks someone into sending money in order to rent an apartment, room or house, which does not exist, or the space belongs to someone else and the scammer does not have permission to the rent it.

Many students are successful at finding a place to live using websites, Facebook or other social media tools. It is important to know what to look for to help prevent scams.

Could I spot a scam?
It is easier than you think to lose money to a scam as scammers are becoming more sophisticated in the methods they use to convince you they are genuine. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when looking at a room advertisement.

Is the room cheap? – If a room is much cheaper than similar rooms in the same area then be suspicious – this is used to make you interested in the room, perhaps taking more risks in the hope of a better deal.

Are the photographs of very good quality? – Very good quality images are usually only taken when properties are being sold. A google image search will show if the photos have been stolen form a genuine property advertisement.

Do they pressure you to act quickly? – This is a tactic to stop you from researching, waiting on advice from others, or taking the precautions you normally would.

Do they ask you to contact them privately via Whatsapp or Messenger for more details? – The more information they put in an ad for accommodation, the easier it is for an Admin of that website to suspect fraud and delete the post. They may turn off commenting on the post so people who have been recently scammed can’t warn others of the scam. Their social media profile is likely to be very basic with few friends or photographs.

Do they try to provide evidence to reassure they are genuine? – A contract or tenancy agreement will not protect you unless the person you are e-mailing can be traced. A passport or passport number can be easily faked.

Do they ask for payment by a money transfer service? – They may ask you to transfer money via Western Union or Moneygram as these types of transfer are hard to trace. If they ask you to transfer money to a relative to show they have the money and ask for a receipt number, this is also a scam – the payment can be intercepted by them with the receipt number.

How can I prevent being scammed?

View the apartment in person before you pay any money. Viewing a property in person is the best way to prevent a scam. You can also make sure that the property is as described in the advert, you like the location and if you are sharing a flat, the people you may be staying with. Look at our short-term accommodation pages for help in finding somewhere to stay while you search.

Ask Joan Jones in the Student Community Relations Office (located beside the QUIC) to look over your lease or contract.

I’ve been scammed – what do I do?
Act quickly. If you think that you may have been scammed then take action immediately. Contact your bank if you have made a payment through your bank account. If you have transferred money through Moneygram or Western Union, contact them immediately to try and stop the payment. In some cases you can claim compensation.

Don’t keep it to yourself and report it. Scammers rely on your reluctance to report them because you think you have been foolish. You are not to blame, the scammer is 100% at fault. Reporting this could stop someone else being scammed.

*Adapted from University of Edinburgh Student Association