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Students have been asked to use Airbnb to rent flats with landlords claiming they are currently abroad

Alleged scam messages targeting student flat hunters have been reported on the University of Glasgow Facebook confession site, GlasKnow. A post on 15 September showed a screenshot of a message one student received on Gumtree while looking for a flat. The apparent landlord claims they are in Spain and cannot meet in person, before asking that the potential tenant goes through Airbnb for proceedings, rather than Gumtree. 

The student is asked to pay the first month of rent as well as a security deposit through Airbnb. Only after the payment is made will the student receive keys and rental deposit within three days, which has been termed an "inspection period" to view the property. The alleged scammer states that they use Airbnb since it is "one of the biggest rental companies around the world" and they "really trust them". 

Another student, Jane*, shared a message she received this year when enquiring about a flat on Gumtree with The Glasgow Guardian, which she believes to have been a scam. As in the previous case, she was asked to go through Airbnb. The apparent landlord asks for the first month's rent payment and security deposit, coming to £1800, to be paid within 24 hours, along with personal information including a photo of her ID, in order to go through with the letting. An Airbnb agent would then meet the tenants in person, give them the keys and contract to be signed, before they were shown around the property. According to the email, "if you don't like it, they will refund your money back in 24 hours".

Jane* received an email, which The Glasgow Guardian has seen, from a person of the same name, when enquiring about another flat, this time claiming they are a "UK army sergeant" who has been deployed for the next three years to Gibraltar. 

The post has attracted 13 comments on GlasKnow with other students citing similar experiences. The claim of the landlord being abroad, and hence unavailable in person, was also experienced by another student, this time in the Netherlands rather than Spain. Similar messages were also reported for flats on Facebook Marketplace as well as Gumtree.

The scam concerns come as many Glasgow students are still struggling to find accommodation for the new academic year, which commences in just a few days' time. A subsequent GlasKnow post was uploaded the following day, calling on students with nowhere to stay to start "pitching tents" on the University campus in protest of the "lack of support" received from the University.

The University sent an email to all students on 27 August stating that it is working with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) to help students secure accommodation, whilst subject coordinators have offered online teaching for those unable to be present in Glasgow for the beginning of the semester. 

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity. 


1 reply on “Alleged scammers targeting Glasgow student flat hunters”

Mia says:

Same thing happened to me today.

This time the scammer was on what I thought were “reputable” websites such as Open Rent.

Red Flag One: new land lord to the site and hadn’t fully been verified.

Two: When I contacted them showing interest, I was given their personal WhatsApp number. They immediately made clear there were many other applicants after the same flat and that to secure my place I should apply NOW.

Red Flag Three: sent shifty application documents. They didn’t care that I couldn’t fill out some sections such as credit score. They kept on pressuring me to pay the deposit.

Four: Name changes. Initially called Amber, then Piers Benatar, then when they sent me their PERSONAL bank transfer details they were called “Favour Omisarie”.

Now, all though this will sound naive of me. I was excited. Stunning flat, stunning location, low(ish) price, and most of all, a reply! (This was the most I had got so far in my flat search).

Embarrassingly tried to send him the deposit money. My bank blocked it and advised me to call the Fraud number. I did and low and behold… he was a scammer. His card details had no transactions and they also found the REAL flat and REAL landlord selling the property officially registered on right move for a higher price.

Since confronting the scammer, they have not taken down this property. In fact they actually have posted the same property as well as 2 other fake listings multiple times on Open Rent. They have also changed their name!

By researching the real Landlord’s registration number on the Scottish Land Lord Registration page I have found it is certainly not who was contacting me.

There is however a Landlord called Piers Benatar but unfortunately their name has been used by this scammer as a registration number and they have nothing to do with this flat.

I don’t see how Open Rent can allow UNVERIFIED Land lords to post flats and make contact with customers and allow fraudulent transactions like I almost took part in to take place. All this scammer needed to do was enter an email and phone number.

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