Three St Andrews students have lost £12k total in accommodation scams

Students have reportedly been conned into paying deposits for housing that doesn’t exist

Three students at St Andrews University have lost around £12,000 in total in accommodation scams.

Police are investigating separate alleged incidents of fraud in St Andrews, the Courier reports, after students have reportedly been conned into paying deposits for housing that doesn’t exist.

They are targeting students looking for accommodation because they know the challenges many students face when finding somewhere to live, police have reportedly said.

Police Scotland confirmed to the Courier that it’s had three reports of this type of fraud, worth about £12,000 in total.

St Andrews University said it’s aware of the alleged incidents, and has warned students to be cautious of requests from landlords for payments to secure properties.

The advice from the uni, issued in an email to students, includes telling students that reliable landlords and lettings agents won’t ask for money in advance to secure housing; and to research to confirm the landlord’s details and that the advert is genuinely for a property to rent.

It reminds students that it is illegal to ask for upfront payment to view or secure a property, and you cannot be charged for a deposit unless a contract has been signed. The uni also tells students to not pay money to a non-UK bank, online account, or multiple bank accounts.

Constable Larna Fox, community officer for St Andrews University, said: “We are aware of a number of recent rental frauds targeted at university students in St Andrews and sadly, in a few of these cases, people have lost money as a result.

“In general terms these are where students looking for properties are asked to pay a fee in advance without viewing the property. In reality, the property either does not exist, has already been rented out or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time. The victim then loses the upfront fee they have paid and is not able to rent the property they thought they had secured with the payment.

“Unscrupulous rental fraudsters often target students looking for university accommodation knowing that this is often difficult to secure.

“Do not send money to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are sure they are genuine, or until you or a reliable contact, such as a family member, has had a chance to visit the property with an agent or the landlord. Do not feel pressurised into transferring money until you are confident the offer is genuine.

“Our inquiries into recent incidents are ongoing and I would urge anyone who may have any concerns to contact Police Scotland on 101 or contact the university for support.”

Have you had a uni accommodation crisis this year? Whether it’s in halls or with a private landlord – if you have a story you think we should know about, get in touch at [email protected]

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