Accommodation scam

| Amr Shaker

Daniel Monteiro is a 23 year-old student from Brazil. He studies Energy Engineering in University of Twente. Like every other student, he had his own quest searching for accommodation. Through the alternative housing handbook by the international housing office, he knew about the Student Union-Kamersite. This is where he found ads for available rooms in Enschede. In the ads list, he saw an appealing offer for a room in a detached house. The location was perfect; half way between the campus and the city center. Daniel then contacted the alleged owner named “Spencer Franc” via email.

Mr.Franc replied with photos of the house and a very well written lease agreement. After thoroughly examining the lease agreement, Daniel asked for some modifications, to which Mr.Franc complied in no time. Without hesitation did Daniel sign the agreement and send it back. It must have been Daniel’s lucky day, to possibly rent such a cozy house in a great neighborhood for a very reasonable price. Mr.Franc demanded the transfer of an amount of 820€ (320€ as first month’s rent and 500€ security deposit). The transfer was to be made to Mr.Franc’s grandfather who lives in Scotland, in his foreign bank account.

Daniel did transfer the money from Brazil to Scotland. He tried to keep in touch with Mr.Franc, but unfortunately he wouldn’t reply to any of Daniel’s emails. Weeks later, Daniel received an email from Mr.Franc saying that his grandpa was not pleased, because he thought Daniel should transfer the total amount of rent for one year. Poor Daniel started getting suspicious, and requested his money back, but seems grandpa was not amused by the request. However, he was generous enough to tell him that he could stay in the room anyway.

On the 22nd of August, after travel time of 13 hours by flight and 2.5 hours by train, Daniel arrived at the house in Enschede. Expectations were “Home sweet home” but reality was rather bitter. Mr.Franc was no owner of the house and neither was his grandpa, and god knows if there actually existed a grandpa. It was time for Daniel to realize it was never his lucky day, and that the whole fraud was taken out by some smart Scottish dude. In the house actually lived Mister and Misses Van der Jest, the real owners of the house. They told Daiel that he was the fourth person to have been deceived to their place. This hospitable Dutch family offered Daniel to stay over for the weekend till he figures everything out. Following the weekend, they went together to the housing office, where Daniel was offered to stay in a room at the ITC hotel.

Daniel said that the international office provided enough information about how to avoid scams; he followed their guidelines, but seems the fraud was always smarter. It was inconvenient however that the student union kamersite allowed anyone to post an ad without any regulations. As a reaction from the student union, board member Sietske van der Leest commented that the union was deeply concerned about the fraud cases. Stietske clarified that new regulations for Kamersite are now in place. The new regulations limit the service to only registered UT students and employees, this limitation ensures transparency of identity and therefore trustworthiness. Further registration procedures are also required to publish an ad. The Kamersite has also introduced a list of warnings and guidelines for students in search of rooms. “The Kamersite is now a safe and reliable platform for students to search for accommodation’’, Stietske concluded.