Accommodation scam left Durham student robbed of over £1,500

A nightmarish start to a year abroad

A language student from Durham has been scammed out of £1,593 from a rental agreement in Germany the summer before his year abroad, the Palatinate reports.

The Durham student found out the hard way that a year abroad isn't always the easiest to organise – especially when you're left with nowhere to stay in the middle of Germany.

With the rental agreement organised for the summer before the student's residence in Germany, he was told to provide a scan of his passport and a deposit of £1,043, being a month's rent.

All appeared well until after a couple of days when the rental company contacted him again to ask for a further two months' rent. He was told in the email that his ‘landlady’ needed the extra money so she could continue her studies in an American university.

The student told the Palatinate that the email stated, “I would be glad if you can make it up and pay the two months rent [sic] to help the poor orphan.”

His suspicions were raised so naturally he refused to make the payments, and the scammers completely cut all form of communication with him.

Although the student took the necessary steps calling Action Fraud, Passport office and the bank, he was not successful in recovering any of the money he lost. As well as the amount he had paid, other expenses included return flight tickets to Germany and hotel expenses for the first few nights.

This left the total amount of money he lost at around £1,600.

The student says "You hear about it happening to other people, but you never think it’ll be you. I hope by me sharing this story, other people can avoid this happening to them."

Around 500 students leave the cobbled streets of Durham every year to live and work abroad, yet according to Professor Donoghue, the Dean for Internationalisation, it is "very rare that students become victims of false rental agreements".

Professor Donoghue further elaborated to advise "not to transfer any money to accommodation they have not seen in person", which is surely easier said than done when planning a year somewhere that isn't five minutes down the road.