Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Landlady Fleeced in Conman's Net Scam; Polish Student Caught in Rent Cheque Sting Warns Others

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Landlady Fleeced in Conman's Net Scam; Polish Student Caught in Rent Cheque Sting Warns Others

Article excerpt

Byline: By ADAM JUPP Chief Reporter

A TRUSTING landlord has been ripped off by a phoney tenant using stolen cheques.

Anna Smith, 26, advertised a spare room in her home, in Walker, Newcastle, on a website.

Within hours, she was contacted by a man who said he was coming to work in the city and wanted to take up the offer.

He sent Anna, a Phd student at Newcastle University, a cheque for pounds 2,500 - six months' rent - and she paid it into her HSBC bank account.

The man, calling himself Nataniel Colins, then rang her up on two occasions, asking for pounds 600 to be paid back to him to help with shipping costs.

But after she made the payments, the cheque was cancelled and the prospective tenant vanished without trace, leaving Anna out of pocket.

A police probe discovered the cheque had been stolen from a shop in London and nobody by the name of Nataniel Colins lives at the address he had given.

Now Anna is urging all landlords to be cautious of the perils of renting rooms over the internet. She said: "I was very naive and I would just warn anybody to be very careful about the cheques they receive and about who they deal with."

Anna, who is Polish, is doing a three-year study into travel habits at Newcastle University. Her four-bedroom house is on Melton Avenue, Walker, where she also lives and rents out the other rooms. Anna says she was confused by the fact her online banking screen showed the cheque had gone into her account, despite the fact the funds were not fully cleared.

She said: "I wanted to rent a room out so I put an advert on a website called Gumtree. The same day, a man calling himself Nataniel Colins replied and said he would like to take it up.

"I told him it was pounds 95 per month and he told me he worked for a company which was sending him to Newcastle to do research and they would pay for his rent and other expenses.

"He said he would send me a cheque and then I went away and when I came back there was a cheque waiting for me. …

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