The coronavirus pandemic that drastically changed our world began approximately a year ago and quickly spread across the globe. As a result, many new things have become a part of our daily lives including masks, social distancing and self-isolation. Hopefully these precautions will no longer be necessary once life returns back to normal.
Unfortunately, another thing that occurred world-wide has been an increase in fraud attempts. Innocent and unsuspecting people have been targeted through phone calls, texts and email messages. It's become important to keep up-to-date on typical scams and protect ourselves.
Most of the landlords using Places4Students.com have found it to be a safe and convenient way to advertise their rental properties to potential tenants. However, as with all websites recently, we occasionally receive reports of scams and fraud attempts.
Our website has always been proactive in dealing with such issues online by educating landlords, property managers and students on how to identify and handle scams or fraud attempts. Most contacts are initiated through email and typically there are a few ‘flags’ that stand out. The following list will help landlords to identify potentially fraudulent emails.
1) Inquiries from Foreign Countries
Nearly all scammers we have encountered operate out of foreign countries, claiming to be students that are moving to North America. Many academic institutions DO have a large international student body. In most cases, legitimate international students will already have been accepted at their school, when searching for housing accommodations. To verify, you can request a copy of their confirmation letter.
2) Request for Personal Financial Information
Under no circumstance should a potential tenant ask a landlord for personal financial information. This is an immediate red-flag.
3) Request to Transfer/Wire Funds
Never transfer or wire funds to a potential tenant! This is another immediate red-flag. A scammer sends a check or wire transfer to the landlord, where the amount exceeds the rent and security deposit total. The scammers will then request the landlord to send back the overpayment, as it was an error. If the landlord cooperates, his money will be lost, because the original check or wire transfer will not clear the bank and be flagged as fraudulent.
4) Spelling and Grammatical Errors in Emails
Most scammer emails contain many spelling and grammatical errors. If common words are repeatedly misspelled, or specific terms are used out of context, be cautious. Several examples are available on our website for reference.
5) Does the Email Start with Sir/Madam or a Peculiar Salutation?
It’s not very common for students to refer to someone through email as Sir or Madam. This is often another red-flag to be aware of.
6) Does the Tenant Want to Move In Without Seeing The Property?
Most renters will not be willing to lease and move into a property, without seeing it first. It may be unavoidable for some international students; however under normal circumstances, most potential tenants will view the rental first.
7) Does the Email Refer to an Unusual Arrangement With Another Person (Agent, Parent, Etc.)?
If the correspondence references an unusual or uncommon arrangement regarding payment of rent, involvement of a third-party, or anything else suspicious, this may be a sign of a scam.
8) Providing Unnecessary or Unrequested Information
If a potential tenant includes details like pictures, a student Visa, passport number or other unrequested information, this is a warning sign of a potential scam.
9) Unusual Sob Stories
If the email references a pressing family or financial issue of the potential tenant, this can also be a warning. It’s fairly uncommon for an individual to discuss personal or financial issues with a complete stranger via email.
For more information, examples of potentially fraudulent emails and suggestions on how to deal with scam attempts, view our Fraud/Scam Alerts.
The Places4Students.com Team