Rental scammers are targeting University of Wollongong international students who are struggling to find accommodation as the new session begins.

The university announced that from 26 June 2023, all classes will be held face-to-face on campus for international students.

UOW international student Ann Phan said that she is struggling to find a new home after her landlord increased her rental price.

“I notice my weekly rent is striking around $15 per week because of inflation,” Ms Phan said.

“Housing is in shortage and I could only find short-term rooms to stay in.”

Finding a place to settle in was also a tough experience for Alicesara Chaimala, due to a lack of local knowledge.

“Before I came to Wollongong I didn’t know the way around here so it’s hard to know where is a good place to stay,” Ms Chaimala said.

“I’ve got scam messages while searching for accommodation using flatmates and Facebook groups.”

Domain chief executive Jason Pellegrino told the ABC that only a few users were trapped by the scammers in their investigation following a cyber-attack in 2021.

The NSW government states that, in agreements with a fixed-term of less than two years, landlords can only adjust the rent during the term if the agreement covers the increase in the contract.

In response to this matter, UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Theo Farrell said that the university is working to ensure support for all international students studying in Australia.

“We have housing support officers – both in the Illawarra and in Sydney, for students who choose to live there – to help students understand their options and find somewhere suitable to live,” Professor Farrell said.

“A working group, with student co-chair, is developing a new framework for the international student experience that includes a range of initiatives from before they leave their home country, to arrival and orientation, to graduation, employment and beyond.

“These initiatives include more in-depth pre-arrival preparation, incorporating accommodation briefings, as well as advice on successfully navigating cost-of-living pressures.”

UOW said they actively encourage staff and members of the community who have a spare granny flat or room to consider joining the Study Stays or Homestay programs and rent their space to a student.

Students having difficulty finding somewhere to live can call UOW Accommodation Support Hotline (02 4221 5777) for help and guidance.

Image credit: Minh Thieu