MATT CHEETHAM / TANNARA YELLAND
Campus Safety is asking students to be aware of potential online rental scams.
They put an alert out after a property owner contacted them to make sure others were notified and warned.
Campus Safety inspector Harold Shiffman says someone claiming to be from the U.K. contacted the landlord, Stacey Burr, ostensibly looking to rent a room for his daughter “Susan.”
Burr said she decided to use the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union housing registry because she “thought a student would be safer” as a tenant than the general public.
After putting her room up for rent, Burr received an email from someone claiming to be a new graduate student from overseas.
“I knew it was fake from the beginning,” Burr said.
The prospective renter said she wanted to get a job immediately in Saskatoon, which a foreign student would be unable to do.
Burr explained that after sending a money order for $1,500 more than necessary, the scammer claimed to have mixed up two cheques and asked her to cash the cheques, and to return the excess amount when she picked up the student at the airport.
“She suspected it was a forgery,” Shiffman said, “and her mother works in a bank out east. She mailed it to her mother to look at, and her mother confirmed it was a fraud.”
The Scotia Bank money order was ultimately traced to Bunia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, not the U.K., as previously claimed.
“She hasn’t contacted (the scammer) since,” Shiffman said, “but they have still been bugging her on the phone.”
If any money is received by the renter in this type of scam, it is often either entirely fraudulent or issued from a bank that is unable to process requests instantly.
Once the money is deposited it may take several weeks for the money order to be processed by the original bank and by that time the funds are gone.
Shiffman said Burr was extremely lucky. He added students should be on the lookout for suspicious emails and that they should contact Campus Safety immediately if they receive one.
According to Shiffman this is the first case that has been reported at the U of S and as far as he knows no other online frauds have been reported at other universities.
“If people are getting weird emails,” Shiffman said, “the best advice is to not delete anything” to make investigation easier.