Student special scam alerts and news from Coventry Trading Standards - 1 September 2017

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Student special scam alerts and news from Coventry Trading Standards - 1 September 2017

In this issue:

Student accommodation fraud warning


Seasonal rental fraud is an emerging trend with students looking for suitable accommodation before the start of the new term.

Fraudsters will use a variety of free advertising websites such as Gumtree to advertise ‘available’ properties in very convenient locations at very attractive rates.

Rental scams work by asking the prospective tenant for deposits, or in some cases full payment upfront, in order to prove that funds are available for the duration of the rental period, or to secure the property prior to actually visiting it, usually by some form of money transfer.

In some cases, fraudsters have been able to gain access to properties and take prospective tenants around, giving them the impression that the properties are vacant and under their control.

There have also been cases of fraudsters renting out properties that have already been rented out, or have been rented to multiple victims at the same time. Any payments made will be lost and the ‘landlord’ will have disappeared.

Coventry Trading Standards have produced a list of tips in order for prospective tenants to protect themselves:

  • Never send money upfront - Make certain the person and property exists and the person has control of the property. Paying a deposit is standard in renting; paying money upfront to secure one is not. The safest way to pay is by a credit card in person at the letting agent’s office where a formal contract should also be signed before any money has changed hands.
  • Check the legitimacy of the advert – Avoid adverts that do not give the address of the property.
  • Be aware of adverts with no telephone numbers or where the only email address is a free one –Look for UK based telephone numbers but be wary of numbers starting with 070 (or +4470) which are non-geographic business numbers.
  • Visit the house you intend to rent – Meet the landlord there to confirm that the property is bona fide. Be suspicious of anyone who refuses to let you visit the property. Also ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas, Electricity or HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Licence.
  • Ask the Landlord for ID – If you have any suspicions, ask to see their driving licence to establish they are who they say they are.
  • Do not proceed if asked to transfer money via money transfer agents such as Western Union, Money Gram or Paysafe –The safest way to make a payment is at the letting agent’s office by credit card and make sure you are given a formal signed contract before any money changes hands.
  • Check to see if the owner is a member of rental schemes - Look for accreditation membership such as National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
  • Protect your deposit – When a deposit is taken other than a “holding deposit”, the money must be paid into a Government approved deposit scheme. Further information can be found at:
  • Use your common sense – If the property is too cheap and looks fantastic then it’s probably too good to be true.

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Shared postal mailboxes create potential for identity theft


Identity theft occurs when your personal identification information is used without your knowledge or permission. Criminals use it to obtain credit cards, products and services, loans and mortgages and commit other types of fraudulent or even criminal acts in your name, leaving you to pick up the pieces and show you are not responsible.

Trading Standards advise that students living in accommodation with a communal entrance and shared mailboxes are at a high risk as it is easy for post to fall into the wrong hands. One bank statement is all a potential fraudster needs to commit identity theft.

Identity thieves don't just steal your money; they steal your name and reputation for their own financial gain. This can seriously jeopardise your financial future.

Keep yourself safe from identity theft; never throw away entire bills, receipts, credit or debit card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Instead destroy them, preferably by shredding them before placing in the bin.

If you think that you may be a victim of identity theft contact one of the credit reference agencies listed below for a free ‘victim of fraud’ service. The Agency will contact lenders on your behalf where fraudulent applications have been made or fraudulent credit accounts opened in order to restore your credit history to its former state.

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Money mule warning to new and returning students

job vacanies

Students are warned to beware of criminal gangs targeting them to become money mules.

What is a money mule?

A money mule is someone who is recruited by those needing to launder money obtained illegally.

They will accept money into their personal bank account, before following further instructions on what to do with the funds. Instructions could include transferring the money into a separate specified account or withdrawing the cash and forwarding it on via money transfer service companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. The mule is generally offered a small percentage of the funds as they pass through their account.

The money being transferred is stolen, and this is known as money laundering, which is illegal. Involvement in money laundering can lead to a criminal sentence of up to fourteen years in prison. People recruited by criminals to help transfer stolen money are known as ‘money mules’, or ‘money transfer agents’.

Criminals advertise in a number of ways, usually offering opportunities to make money quickly to lure potential recruits. This can be by;

  • Social media posts.
  • Posting adverts for employment on genuine recruitment websites.
  • Sending mass emails offering employment.
  • Targeting individuals that have posted their CVs on employment websites.

Students are particularly susceptible to adverts of this nature. For someone in full-time education, the opportunity for making money quickly can understandably be an attractive one.

Money laundering is a criminal offence and can lead to prosecution and a custodial sentence.

Furthermore, anyone who becomes involved may be unable to obtain credit in the UK or have a bank account in the future.

Our advice

  • Never give the details of your bank account to anyone that you do not trust.
  • No legitimate company will ever ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money so don’t accept any jobs that ask you to do this.
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails or social media posts promising ways of earning easy money. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Don’t be afraid to question the legitimacy of any businesses that make you a job offer, especially if the recruitment procedure strays from the conventional.

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Warning: scam affecting international students


Trading Standards have been made aware of a scam affecting international students. Whilst there have been no reports locally, it is important that international students are made aware of this.

A caller claiming to be from the Home Office tells students that they are in possession of confidential information and they have not paid for an immigration service. The caller tells the student that as a result of this there is a fine to pay or they will be reported to the police or Home Office. 

People who have been targeted have reported that the fraudsters become increasingly insistent and verbally aggressive, resulting in them feeling coerced into making a payment.

If you receive a call like this, do not make any payment. The Home Office does not issue financial penalties.

More information on this scam, including how you should respond.

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For more information on scams, visit:

How to report scams