Elliott Greenblott: Shortage of student accommodation gives scammers an edge | Company

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Students looking for accommodation while attending college can be prime targets for scammers. Protect yourself by taking a few simple precautions.

Many college students are busy preparing for the start of the school year. Part of this preparation includes making decisions about housing.

While many schools offer on-campus dorms, many don’t, and apartments can get expensive. This is often true for schools located in small communities such as Williamstown, Middlebury, Vt. or Hanover, NH, but the housing shortage is also affecting larger communities such as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. The same may be true for schools located in resort or vacation destinations such as Tampa or Orlando, Florida.

Scarcity or perceived scarcity of any type can lead to a panic reaction (remember the great toilet paper shortage of 2021?). The shortage of university housing (scarcity) provides opportunities for criminals.

College accommodation scams are often developed via social media and targeting can be based on what students innocently post on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or WhatsApp to name a few. Comments about studying or looking for an apartment open up the possibility of “Spear Phishing”, targeting potential victims based on personal profiles.

Here are some of the possible housing scam techniques: Craigslist — criminals create fake profiles to lure college students looking for roommates; publications in newspapers or newsletters — advertisements are placed in publications that appeal to young readers; Tear strips – postings on bulletin boards that are looking for roommates or offer apartments; emails, text messages or contextual advertisements using online profiles.

Avoiding these scams means developing a disciplined approach to apartment hunting. First, be aware of the “too good to be true” offer. Is the future roommate too perfect? Is the rental below market price in the area? Is the rental apartment too good (number of bedrooms, extras such as a sauna, fantastic residential area).

Then, carefully review all documents before signing. Are you asked to guarantee payment of the rent and for how long? Does the “fine print” make you responsible for the condition of the property? What are your responsibilities if your roommate leaves? What is your responsibility in case of damage caused by your roommate or a guest?

Often the person arranging the rental will ask for money in advance to secure the apartment. Gift card payment requests should be viewed with suspicion. Payments should be traceable and the use of checks provides this functionality.

There are also red flags when it comes to the owner. Scammers often pose as owners while others are simply unscrupulous. They display attractive photos and advantageous rental prices that are lower than the rents paid in the region for similar properties.

Scammers often want prepayment before the tenant can see or inspect the apartment, and meeting the landlord or a representative is not possible. In a number of cases, security deposits are required even before a lease is signed.

Take the time to think about the whole rental process. Look for spelling or grammatical errors in the post. Serious landlords take their job of renting out their property seriously and don’t do a sloppy job of promoting it.

Similarly, a serious owner will use some form of screening process. They will want to know that you, as the tenant, can pay the rent and maintain the space. If there is no screening process, credit check, or rental application form, you should be more than a little suspicious.

Finally, four steps before signing anything:

• Use your computer’s browser to search for owner, neighborhood and community. Check the location of the property using a computer application such as Google Earth or Maps to virtually view the property and the neighborhood.

• Meet the landlord or property manager in person to verify their personality and get an idea of ​​their style. It also gives you the opportunity to determine the legitimacy of the offer.

• Perform an in-person inspection of the property to determine suitability of space, maintenance and nature of other tenants.

• Review documents carefully before signing anything. Leases are legal documents that require professional review. Low-cost services are available, but any expense will be well worth the cost in the long run.

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