Students in Edinburgh continue to be targeted by fraudsters offering to rent flats which do not exist.
Japanese research student Jun-ya Shoji recently paid a £700 deposit to secure a tenancy in a shared flat, but upon arriving in Edinburgh found that the property did not exist.
The microbiology student is understood to be the latest victim in a spate of fake accommodation scams targeting international students coming to Edinburgh. The Journal reported on a similar case in November 2007, where five Napier University international students were duped out of hundreds of pounds.
The 28-year-old found the flat after posting an advert on the Edinburgh Gumtree website from his home in Tokyo. A woman responded to his request, asking for a deposit of two months' rent to be transferred through Western Union. Mr Soji became suspicious when the woman asked for an additional three months' rent to secure the tenancy—which he was unable to pay—and cancelled the agreement.
However, it was not until he arrived in the city that Mr Shoji realised the degree of the swindle, when he was unable to contact the woman or reclaim his money.
Mr Shoji is currently living with an acquaintance—Mrs Purnima Kaura—in Newington, while he searches for another room.
Mrs Kaura said: "I went to look for this flat and it doesn't exist. We went to the police and there is a big hoax going on." A police spokesman confirmed they were investigating the matter.
The International Student Advisory Service (ISAS) advises students to refrain from paying deposits until they have viewed the property and ensured it is up to standard. International students are at a greater risk of being targeted by fake rental scams, due to the difficulty of arranging viewings.
In November, A spokesperson from Gumtree told The Journal: “Unfortunately we are aware, despite our best efforts, of this kind of fraud being attempted from time to time on Gumtree. We advise users against the use of Western Union because in our experience these forms of money transfer are favoured by fraudsters."