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March 8, 2010

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STUDENT LIFE Kerstin Kent and Riana Stellburg, page designers

Beware of Internet rental scams: Student arrives to find future home already occupied

“The No. 1 warning stressed throughout the site is ‘deal locally with folks you can meet in Ashleigh Hussein ar- person.’ Follow this one simple rule and you rived in Hawai‘i ready will avoid 99 percent of the scam attempts on for a year as an exchange craigslist.” by Annabelle Beale, staff writer

student. Waiting at the airport for her luggage, her nerves were firing at the thought of a new university, the excitement of meeting new friends, but most of all, moving into the new, two-bedroom apartment she had gotten for a steal on craigslist. “I knew I could feel at home here,” Ashleigh remembers thinking as she approached her Ala Wai Ave. rental unit. “The canal views and being so close to the ocean, it would have been perfect.”The feeling was short lived, for when Hussein knocked on the door, she discovered her “two bedroom apartment” was actually an occupied studio apartment. The humiliation and confusion led her to phone the Australian Federal Police. “I supplied all the relevant documentation, as well as the lease agreements, landlord passport, and current residence details.” Hussein added, “I

never met the landlord in person, which was my trustworthiness and naivety, I guess.” It appeared that all the documentation and proceedings were in order, except the one fatal mistake of not meeting the person in reality. “The police said that there was very little you can do to detect fraud prior to it happening, except knowing the person and meeting them.” Angeles Sol Miranda, a student advisor at the Universidad De Buenos Aires, constantly cautions students who travel to overseas destinations and use the site in order to reserve accommodation. Overseas students search from their home country and this is inherently unreliable as they have no way of knowing which real estate agents are legitimate, and which are not. Miranda warns about online scams in particular as,

she said “You do not know who you are dealing with.” Miranda said that the most common scams are actually legitimate realtors trying to “... lease properties that are not legitimately for rent.” The scammers use online classified Web sites such as, and they post false photographs and information. Hussein tried to avoid the scam by confirming the building existed and that there were vacant apartments, but unfortunately these were not the apartment that Hussein leased. Complicating this is the fact that it is also nearly impossible to track the money, as transfers are done through Western Union and other non-traceable wire services. Popular online rental site has dealt with many users complaining of being involved in scams by people who claim to be overseas real estate

agents. As a result, the site provides warnings on every Internet page on the site on ways to avoid fraudulent transactions. The No. 1 warning stressed throughout the site is “deal locally with folks you can meet in person.” Follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99 percent of the scam attempts on craigslist. Suzanne Smith of Suzanne Smith and Associates, a real estate agency, said that it is easy to get caught up in scams, but it is just as easy to avoid them. “If you are using online services, then do not wire money to anybody,” said Smith. She follows her own advice. “I never lease an apartment to anybody unless I meet them face-toface. It is that simple.” Hussein, who eventually found a place through a local real estate agent after weeks of open house inspections, also has good advice to students who might be tempted to put a deposit down on an apartment via online services: “If it is too good to be true, it is too good to be true.”

Hang loose in Hawai‘i By: Lucija Ramovš, student writer

Relax, take it easy, just hang loose and everything will work out. After all, you are in Hawai‘i! Dancing the hula, palm trees, deep blue skies, the ocean, sandy beaches, and sun, sun, sun. With summer weather all year long, Hawai‘i sounds like paradise on Earth. Located in the middle of the Pacific, Hawai‘i is a historical place with a unique culture. Being so different from the rest of the world, it attracts millions of people every year. However, being a tourist in Hawai‘i is much different than actually living here for several months and experiencing the culture. To fully experience and understand Hawai‘i, it is not enough to stay in Waikiki in a safe shelter of prestigious hotels or take the rent-a-car trips to the North Shore, Kailua, and Pearl Harbor. The real experience is riding on the bus. I sometimes sit on the bus with no destination and observe people. People of different origins, religions, colors,

and beliefs are all on a bus, presenting the ethnic variety of Hawai‘i. It is not unusual to hear people speaking Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, or Spanish on the bus. It is proof that Hawai‘i really is a melting pot. No one judges anyone, and it looks like they get along really well. Taking the bus to the North Shore of O‘ahu, you get to the Dole Pineapple Plantation. Growing up in central Europe, where the weather conditions and soil are not appropriate for growing pineapples, I love to see miles of pineapple fields over and over again. Where pineapples grow never really concerned me, it was one of the expensive tropical fruits shipped from distant countries in Asia and South America that you can buy in the supermarkets. Here in Hawai‘i, sweet and low-acid pineapples have replaced the sour and high-acid pineapples I was used to. The world famous pineapple ice cream definitely is the icing on the cake. Soak up the sun and relax, because whether it’s your home or vacation, you’re in paradise.

V34#3 Student Life P5  

“The No. 1 warning stressed throughout the site is ‘deal locally with folks you can meet in person.’ Follow this one simple rule and you wil...

V34#3 Student Life P5  

“The No. 1 warning stressed throughout the site is ‘deal locally with folks you can meet in person.’ Follow this one simple rule and you wil...