An email scam is currently targeting local people advertising rentals for Selkirk College students.
Those working the scam appear to be getting information from the Selkirk College web page listings of rental units available in the area. The college hosts a space where those providing or seeking accommodations can post information, similar to a classified advertisement. The college is not involved in arranging these accommodations, that is left to the landlord and student. “This is a great service for both parties. We have received good feed back from landlords and students,” said Cathy Mercer, Selkirk College Director of Student Enrollment Services and Registrar.
Unfortunately, someone has decided to take advantage of the listings with a version of a cheque cashing scam. Wendy Voykin has received four of these fraudulent emails since posting her rental listing. “I was surprised at how far the contact with these people went,” said Voykin of the exchange that involved numerous emails from a potential renter claiming to be from England, payment arrangements made by her businessman father through a third party and finally a cheque for $5000 arriving at her home. The cheque was made to appear to have come from UBC, including a legitimate address. The father then claimed there was a mistake and UBC should not have sent her that amount and requested that she cash the cheque, keep the deposit amount, and send the remaining funds back to the student.
Voykin was not taken in by the scam, noticing several red flags along the way including some improper uses of English, that did not seem to fit with the scenario of a student and businessman from England.
She subsequently received three other emails from students claiming to be from Wales and Tanzania.
Voykin just wants others to know about the scam, so no one gets hurt. “There are people who might get burned, and be out $5000 in this community and there may be students that might not get housing because people will stop putting their names up any more,” she said. “It is an important service Selkirk provides. At the same time, I don't want someone to get scammed.” She has notified Selkirk and UBC about the incident and has reported the fraud.
According to Cathy Mercer, Selkirk will be taking steps to alert those using the rental listings of the potential scam. “We will take some extra measures to help students and landlords to pay more attention,” said Mercer. These steps will likely include the addition of some yellow warning boxes on the website and an automated reply that will go out when someone posts a listing.
Mercer emphasized that most listings and responses are legitimate, but they do want to encourage anyone who has been approached with something suspicious to contact them right away. “We would like the community to keep the college informed,” said Mercer, “So we can help and warn others.”