Students are being urged to check the track record of private landlords
A Londonderry father has warned students looking for accommodation for the new term to beware of bogus landlords advertising on the internet.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said his son paid a deposit to a man who claimed to have a house for rent in south Belfast last year.
He was among a group of students who lost hundreds of pounds in the scam.
The National Union of Students said there has been a rise in the number of such cases.
The students' parents contacted Foyle MLA Martina Anderson after they realised they had been caught up in the rental scam.
The Sinn Fein representative said the families had paid a deposit of almost £800.
She added: "They spent weeks trying to get paperwork and keys, both of which never materialised.
"The owner never answered their calls, the contact ran cold and they lost all their money."
She urged those seeking student accommodation to exercise caution.
"For many of those students it will be the first time they have lived outside the family home and looking for accommodation can be a daunting task particularly in a new area.
"I would appeal to students and their parents to go through well established letting agencies and check the track record of private landlords who advertise on the internet before they sign any tenancy agreements or hand over large deposits."