Part of the excitement of international study is a chance to live independently from your family. This new life involves lots of decisions about how to manage your money, where to live, and who to live with. Life in Australia is generally fairly safe. But just like anywhere in the world, there are people who will take advantage of your new independence and try to scam you – that is, to trick you and take your money. Let’s talk about how you can avoid some of the common rental scams.
When searching for your new home, be careful of offers that sound too good to be true. Ask advice from trusted friends, or your school or agent, if you see any of the following warning signs:
- The rent is a lot cheaper than other similar accommodation in the area
- You are asked to sign a lease or pay a bond or deposit before you have seen the property
- The photos or description of the property don’t match the reality on inspection
- The landlord or agent makes excuses that you can’t view the property, such as saying they are in another state or overseas
- The landlord or agent requests money via money transfer
The scammers may try to appear genuine by providing photos, real addresses of properties, copies of land titles, and even scans of stolen passports. Scammers also ask for personal details – such as bank and credit card numbers and driver’s licence details – which they use for credit card and identity fraud.
There are a few ways you can protect yourself from rental scams:
- Know your rental rights!
- Always inspect the property before you send any money
- Avoid paying via money transfer – it is often impossible to recover your money
- If you are paying a bond for a Victorian property, pay via money order or bank cheque made out to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA).
- Do an internet search with images from the advertising to check they haven’t been copied from another site
Remember: As an international student, you have the same rental rights as a local resident.
Learn more about your rental rights and responsibilities in your state:
ACT – Tenants’ Advice Service
If you have a renting question or problem in Victoria, visit Consumer Affairs Victoria – International Students or call on 1300 55 81 81.