Beware of housing scams targeting international students and scholars

Published: May 22, 2023

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Auburn University students and scholars have recently been affected by scammers posing as local landlords. While any renter can be a victim of a housing scam, incoming international students and scholars are at particular risk due to distance and the inability to visit a prospective rental property in person.

Some scams are particularly insidious and sophisticated. A recent example included a scammer who posed as a scholar’s Auburn faculty host to trick the scholar into sending a deposit. Use these tips to avoid fraudulent rentals:

• Beware of landlords who use high-pressure tactics. If the property owner pressures you to send a deposit before you’ve seen the property or tells you they will rent to someone else if you don’t send payment right away, this could be a scam.

• Never pay a deposit using cash, crypto, wire transfer or “friends and family” options on payment platforms like PayPal. With these forms of payment, there is no way to file a complaint to potentially recover your money. Credit cards, checks and PayPal “goods and services” options provide more protection.

• Always research the property thoroughly before signing a rental agreement or paying a deposit. Use Google Street View to verify that the property exists and appears as described in the listing.

• If at all possible, wait to see the property in person before paying a deposit or signing a rental agreement.

• Work with a local real estate agent with a verifiable presence in the Auburn area. Listings by individuals on Craigslist and other personal ad platforms can be risky.

• Verify that the e-mail address is correct each time you receive correspondence related to a potential rental property, even if the person has e-mailed you before.

If you are a faculty member hosting an international scholar, please help your scholar avoid scams by physically verifying that the landlord and the property are legitimate.

If you have questions, please contact the Office of International Programs at 334-844-5001.

Submitted by: Kalani Long