Posted by Greg Jacobs on 21/01/2011
If you’re a Blindsinabox customer who’s a flat-sharer, our friends at EasyRoommate, the UK’s leading site if you’re in need of a flatshare in London, Manchester, Birmingham or rest of the UK, have a few words to share on avoiding the perils of surfing online for accommodation which sadly do exist. Caution, though, is always the best approach, and here’s a few tips on staying safe:
Firstly, never ever send money to anyone without seeing a property. You may be in need of somewhere to live in a hurry, but that’s what online scammers thrive on. They’ll pressure you into sending money immediately to secure a place, but chances are, when you arrive to move in, it’s in no way yours to occupy. One really common way they’ll ask you to send money is via Western Union. Despite what they say, no matter how convincing someone may be, never use this service! It allows scammers with connections to receive your money and disappear without a trace.
Be very cautious as well about what personal details you send to someone before even meeting them. Online fraud is a major issue, and scammers can use your details to ill effect.
If you’re unsure of who the person is, don’t be afraid to ask for references from them, too, like proof of ID, a bill of theirs, just something to prove they are who they claim to be. It’s also been known to happen that a scammer has access to a property, shows the prospective tenant around, takes the deposit but actually is in no way legally affiliated to the property, and thus, after paying the deposit and initial rent, it’s certainly not yours to rent. They’ve taken your money and run.
Lastly, once you’re moved in, don’t forget to sign some form of tenancy agreement. It protects you as well as the landlord, and sets guarantees that your deposit will be protected, that you won’t be kicked out without the right length of notice, and that there are certain expectations to be fulfilled by both the landlord and you.