Pretoria - Police have issued a warning to prospective university students seeking accommodation, alerting them that several scams have been reported in recent weeks.

“Every year during January and February, students report accommodation fraud cases at the Brooklyn police station. We caution parents and students who use online or newspaper rental searches to find private accommodation, as some people use these advertisements to scam potential tenants,” police spokeswoman Captain Colette Weilbach said.

It was not always possible for students to find placements at official university or college residences, therefore students opted for private accommodation, she said.

University of Pretoria spokeswoman Nicolize Mulder agreed, saying official residence facilities at Tuks were already full, with an extensive waiting list of 5 000.

“We have 8 000 beds, and those have already been filled,” she said.

“We always hear of these kinds of scams and warn students to be cautious at all times.

“It is not a pleasant way to start an academic year with the discovery that the accommodation, for which a deposit has been paid, is nonexistent. Or it has been rented to someone else, or the so-called owner was never the rightful owner of the accommodation that was offered for rent,” she said.

Weilbach said students should, where possible, use the university or college’s official accredited rental agents for private accommodation.

“Or use reliable and registered renting agencies. Extra care should be taken where a renting option is offered by private individuals,” said Weilbach.

Police gave the following tips to avoid being scammed:

* Obtain as much details as possible about the rental property. Ask relatives or friends living in Pretoria to check out the loca-tion of the property and ensure that the property exists and complies with health and safety standards.

* Get the full name, surname and ID number of the rental agent/owner and try to verify it.

* Don’t send any money or personal information without meeting the landlord or property manager, or without seeing the place.

* Be sceptical if the landlord or agent claims to be out of the country and is unable to show you the property personally.

* Ask for a copy of the rental contract and obtain legal advice to verify its legality.

* Try to obtain references from previous tenants.

“Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” warned Weilbach.

Pretoria News