In our previous post “How to automatically reduce student accommodation scams”, we discussed which aspects of student accommodation scam moderation could be automated. We suggested that listings that got caught in the rules we outlined, should be forwarded to a human moderator for further investigation.
This article will focus on what the moderator should pay attention to and how they can investigate more complex student accommodation listings.
How to Spot a Rental Scammer and Catch Accommodation Scams
A listing without a picture is highly suspicious, but so are listings with stock photo quality images.
Moderators should do a quick Google image search to see if they find the picture on other sites. If it is found on another classifieds site or marketplace, the moderator should compare the details of the two listings. If price, name of landlord or other key pieces of information differ, then the listing is probably a scam.
If the name of the landlord is not very common, a Google search on the name can give a lot of supporting evidence to the genuineness of the listing. A fake landlords name might pop up with a scam warning and a real person will often have an online presence verifying their authenticity.
Most rental listings will have an address included. (If it doesn’t, well then that is another warning sign). Using Google Map a moderator can zoom all the way to street view to investigate whether the building there corresponds to that of the pictures in the listing.
Scammers are often very careful, trying very hard to minimize the tell-tale signs of a fraudulent listing. Many times they will try to move their victim off the site before they start demanding money up front or discussing wire transfers.
As such, sometimes it can be very difficult to be 100% confident whether a listing is genuine or not. Experienced moderators will be better at this, as with time and experience they will have developed a sense for when a listing is a scam: but even so there are times where they will have too little evidence to go on.
If it is paramount to remove all fraudulent listings, and if it is uncertain whether a landlord is genuine, then by masquerading as a potential tenant, your moderation team can make contact with landlords.
The resulting reply from the landlord should show all the tell-tale signs if they are indeed fraudulent.
Use this option cautiously though as it could cause issues with user trust.
New Students, New Users?
It is always important to protect your users, but protecting the potential victims of student accommodation scams could be even more so. Why? They are often young people moving away from home and standing on their own two feet for the first time.
This probably also means that they are first time users to classifieds sites and as such it is imperative to ensure a good user experience to make them come back.
Automate your process and train your moderation team to look out for the signs outlined in this article to make sure you have student accommodation scams under control. Then welcome all your new lodging seeking users.