We often get calls from users asking about security when using the internet to find accommodation. As with any form of online dealing, it's always important to be careful when renting or letting a room. Here are some of the most regularly asked questions and our advice on how to stay safe when using Student SpareRoom.
Do you pre check advertisers?
Student SpareRoom is a classified listings website rather than a letting agency. We provide an advertising space that allows users to quickly post and view ads and it would not be practical or user-friendly to reference check every advertiser on the site. We do, however, take the safety of our users very seriously and take various measures to prevent any scammers from advertising on the site or contacting other users. Please read on for details of what we do to protect you and what you can do to further protect yourself.
What we do to protect you
We have systems in place (both manual and automated) that pick up on the majority of attempted scams, preventing scammers from sending messages or posting ads. This level of protection requires considerable time and money to maintain, SpareRoom is the only flatshare site devoting the staff hours and financial investment to protect users in this way.
Although the odd scam does slip through the net this is very rare and, as we educate our users, they will usually bring it to our attention immediately so that we can remove the offender and warn other users of their activities.
Only registered users are able to contact you through Student SpareRoom, making them subject to our various checks. By not revealing your email address we also protect you from spam (some other sites are so irresponsible on this front that they even display your email publicly, making it easily available to the email harvesting robots which produce mailing lists for the peddlers of Viagra etc).
What you can do to keep yourself (and your money) safe
Be vigilant and use your common sense, if something seems too good to be true it usually is! You should exercise particular caution if:
- An ad seems very cheap for the area and the standard shown on the photos.
- The advertiser claims they cannot show you the room and pressurises you into signing and paying before you have seen anything.
- You are asked to pay anything via Western Union, Moneygram or any other money transfer system.
- You receive inconsistent emails where the English degenerates from the quality in the ad and initial email.
Always try to view rooms before committing to anything, ask to see a copy of the tenancy agreement and ask which tenancy deposit scheme the landlord will be using before handing any deposit over (although, if you're moving in as a lodger the tenancy deposit scheme is unlikely to apply to you).
Although it is important to remember that the vast majority of people are honest it is also important to be aware of your personal safety and follow a few rules to avoid potentially unsafe situations when going to view properties on your own.
- Find out the exact address you will be going to and try to avoid meeting anywhere else. Notify a friend, colleague or relative where you will be going, who you are meeting and what time you expect the viewing to end. Tell them that you will call around that time and, if you have not called, ask that they give you 5 minutes and then call you. As we say, the vast majority of people are honest and you should not be paranoid, just take sensible safety precautions.
- If you are abroad and cannot view the rooms we advise you speak to the advertiser on the phone. NEVER pay by Western Union or Moneygram as these services are untraceable - if possible pay by a reputable Escrow service.
Don't be scared. By exercising a little caution you will vastly reduce the risk of anything untoward happening to you. The vast majority of Student SpareRoom transactions are safe and secure because we invest time, money and staff hours into making sure they are. Good luck finding a room!
For further information on staying safe online visit the NetCred security centre