With two weeks to go before classes begin, students looking for accommodation are being warned about rental scams, particularly due to a tight rental market in the city.
"By all means, it's common to hear of one case a year where a student gets scammed," said Craig Engleson, TRU’s World’s manager of international housing. "To have two in one week is very uncommon and it was very alarming in that sense."
Fraudsters use a variety of methods to deceive students into sending them money, and international students may be more vulnerable.
"If anything is different right now, it is that the rental market is tight," Engleson added.
The same scammer is believed to have been behind the two cases in the past week. Students were contacted through the TRU directory and told to transfer money to a Spanish bank account. As a Norwegian student was drawn into the fraud, he connected with an international adviser on campus and the fraudulent connection was stopped, but not before the fraudster threatened the student.
“If students are feeling something isn’t right, we’re urging them to get in touch with TRU World by contacting their ISA (international student advisor) and telling them about the situation,” Engleson said. “We want students to know they’re not in trouble by letting us know, we just want to help.”
One fraudulent tactic involves connections through websites listing rental accommodation. Renters are told that in order to secure a place they must make a payment or e-transfer within hours. Under pressure, students are more likely to fall prey to the ruse.
In other cases, potential landlords become demanding and even threaten legal action. Another clue that the rental is a scam is if the price seems too good to be true when compared to other similar listings.
Kamloops RCMP offers the following tips to renters:
- Ask to see previous utility bills for the residence and/or photo ID to confirm the identity of the landlord.
- Choose a payment method other than cash for rent or deposits, such as a personal cheque, money order, bank draft or certified cheque.
- Ensure a proper tenancy agreement is drafted and signed by both parties.
A reputable list of off-campus options is the housing registry operated by TRU Students’ Union.
Brandon de Krieger, TRU residence and conference centre general manager, says there is still space available on campus. As of Tuesday morning there were 25 spaces available at McGill Housing and 10 at the TRU Residence and Conference Centre.
“The numbers give a pulse of where we are at in the moment. We constantly get cancellations at this time of year,” said de Krieger.
For information about the residence and conference centre, call 250-852-6296 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. McGill Housing can be reached at 250-852-6330 or email email@example.com.