Students fall prey to rent scam
The original article was written by Katlego Dithole of Pretoria News and was published on IOL on 22 June 2015. The original article can be accessed here.
Pretoria - Tertiary students have been warned to be vigilant when searching for accommodation to avoid falling prey to fraudulent landlords.
This comes after four desperate Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) students were swindled of a collective R5 500 while looking for accommodation at a block of flats in Arcadia.
Pearl Mohale, Neo Sathekge, Kgomotso Khanye, and Ndumiso Yendi said they were left angry when a man pretending to be a landlord promised them accommodation.
They wanted to move from their current residence.
“We saw an advert on the internet and called him. He told us that we needed to put together R5 500 for the deposit,” Yendi said.
The four said he showed them a number of flats and told them they could move in.
The conman, who introduced himself as Alfred, instructed the four students to deposit the money within five days. They did, after which he disappeared.
They said he gave them his ID copy, and a lease agreement, but did not give them the keys to the flat which he had showed them before they deposited the money.
“Pearl contributed R2 200, while Neo, Kgomotso and I paid R1 100 each to pay the deposit for a flat at Kirstenbosch in Arcadia.
“He gave us his account number and we deposited the money,” Yendi said.
After not hearing from the man, the four went to the block of flats to look for him.
“We were shocked when we found the real owner of the flats.
“He said this was not the first time the man had used his flat to con people,” Yendi said.
The four opened a case of fraud at the Pretoria Central police station.
Police spokeswoman Sergeant Ann Poortman confirmed that a case of fraud was being investigated, but said no arrests have been made.
Poortman said police embarked on an awareness campaign to warn students of such incidents.
“These kinds of cases are not rife in the Pretoria Central area, but we distributed pamphlets to the community earlier this year to alert people not to fall victim to these kind of crimes,” Poortman said.
TUT spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter said students were often advised to verify and check the credentials of landlords before entering into any contracts with them.
“It is a very unfortunate incident that has unfortunately not been reported to university authorities or campus protection services.
“This was a private transaction between the students and a landlord of which the university had no knowledge or mandate to intervene.
“Should an incident of this nature be reported to the university, counselling services are provided to the students to assist them to cope with the situation and the trauma,” De Ruyter said.
South African Students Congress (Sasco) Tshwane chairman Lwando Majiza said the issue of students falling prey to illegitimate landlords was an unfortunate state of reality that a lot of students came across.
“It’s a sad issue. What’s worse is that there is very little awareness around it, especially when students need places to live in the beginning of the year.
“That’s when we come across these incidents the most because the students are desperate,” Majiza said.
He said some Sasco branches across institutions in the city ran campaigns with the SA Police Service at the beginning of each year to make students aware of this problem.
“We provide checklists of what to look for when looking for accommodation.
“We also advise students to refuse signing sub-leases because that’s usually how fake landlords con them out of their money,” Majiza said.