Housing: International student scammed

Housing: an é ;international student victim of a scam

Armina Soleymani is trying to complete her doctorate.< /p>

An international student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario claims she was the victim of a scam that robbed her of her savings. Despite visiting the apartment and signing a lease, she was still victimized by criminals, she says.

Before, I had a problem: finding accommodation. But now I have two problems: finding a place to live and getting my money back, said Armina Soleymani, who moved to Ontario from Iran three years ago to pursue her doctorate. in systems engineering.

Ms Soleymani said she started looking for new accommodation near the university about two months ago, in order to x27;secure a spot before their current lease expires on August 31.

Ms. Soleymani's experience is not unique. The Waterloo Regional Police Service confirms that it has received numerous reports of rental fraud in the University area this month.

Earlier this month, she found an online ad from someone posing as a tenant on a Facebook group popular among college students. The woman said she wanted to sublet a unit in a building on Columbia Street West in Waterloo. Ms. Soleymani set up an in-person meeting with the woman on August 6, she explains.

Ms. Soleymani said the woman, who claimed to be a student, showed the furnished accommodation, then they signed a lease.

The woman asked Ms. Soleymani to pay $2,000 in cash to cover the first and last month's rent, as well as a deposit for the keys.

I got suspicious and asked him for his ID card, Ms Soleymani said. I asked her to come down in front of the main entrance door of the building where there were two security cameras and I paid her.

Ms. Soleymani says the woman gave her a key, which turned out to be fake. She claims she told him the key would work on move-in day.

Ms. Soleymani also said she stayed in touch with the woman through Facebook, but after a few days noticed that the woman's Facebook page had been deleted. When Mrs. Soleymani went to the apartment the next time, she came across a building manager who told her that she had been defrauded by this woman and that there was a problem. #x27;other victims.

It has been impossible to find out who actually lives there. The building's current and former property management company had not responded to requests for clarification as of press time.

Ms. Soleymani said she immediately contacted local police and campus administration.

A spokesperson for the Waterloo Regional Police Service said he could not comment on specific cases, but confirmed that officers are investigating a report of rental fraud in the University District, which occurred Aug. 6 and 7.

Police said they were contacted by three people who had been scammed after responding to online advertisements offering to sublet an apartment.

Police are looking for a female suspect who is approximately 5'2″ (1.57m) tall and has long, brown hair. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the police.

A University of Waterloo spokesperson says they are aware of Ms. Soleymani's situation and are doing what they can. #x27;she can to help him.

We are truly sorry to hear that despite her best efforts and the precautions she took to protect herself, she found herself in a difficult situation, Vice President Nick Manning said via email. associated with university communications.

This one adds that the university offers emergency loans and scholarships to students who know difficulties. Ms. Soleymani confirmed that the school offered her a $2,000 scholarship.

Ms. Soleymani has applied for on-campus accommodation, but she is on a waiting list. Mr. Manning said the waiting list exists because of high demand.

Ms. Soleymani believes scammers are going out of their way to target students foreigners or those struggling to find accommodation a few weeks before the start of the school year.

During this period, students are desperate, they just want to find a place [to live], she said. When your priority is to protect yourself from the risk of homelessness, you can't focus on other things.

There are a lot of #x27;foreign students looking for accommodation without success. We have no choice but to trust people and I know that for many other students who come from abroad there is no x27;no choice but to use online applications, she added, noting that language barriers also make the process more difficult.

Ms Soleymani said that this has taken a toll on her mental health and prevented her from focusing on her studies and research. She hopes her story will raise awareness and help other people.

Just want to warn other students. I don't want anyone else going through the same thing.

With information from CBC's Hala Ghonaim

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