Just a few weeks ago we wrote about a housing scam that lures international TU Delft students into paying hundreds of euros. A scam that is fully conducted from a computer screen by a criminal abroad. We even traced one scammer all the way to Greece.
Still recovering from this adventure, Delta was notified about a new housing scam. One that went beyond anything we had experienced. A scam where you get a viewing, a proper contract and, to top it off, a set of keys.
This is the story of Mike (not his real name), an international student that lost EUR 1,000 of his hard earned money in a terrifying housing scam.
Anxious to come forward
“Even though I feel anxious talking about it, I feel I need to. I hope that by telling my story others will come forward, but most of all I hope my experience will help junior students.
A few weeks ago I saw a nice apartment on the housing website Kamernet.nl. I responded and came into contact with the landlord who introduced himself as Nigel Andres Boon. We exchanged some information by WhatsApp and when I asked for a viewing he arranged it. The next day I visited the apartment on Mijnbouwstraat, near the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. It was a nice place and I expressed my interest. Boon then presented me with a contract.
The only thing that threw me off was that when he asked for a EUR 1,000 deposit, the bank information did not show his name. I voiced my concerns and he responded sympathetically and showed his goodwill by giving me a key to the apartment. ‘Go check it out tomorrow, you will see it’s the real deal,’ he said. So I went back the next day. As I unlocked the door I saw that the brand of the lock and the key were the same and even had the same inscription. Against my expectations, I could unlock the door and go in. The apartment looked exactly the same as the day before. I ignored my gut feeling. After all, the contract was legit and I could enter the apartment with my own key. I accepted and transferred the deposit. One thousand euros of hard-earned money.
A strange man in the living room
The next day I tried to contact Boon by WhatsApp to ask some questions and set a moving date. But to my surprise I could not reach him. It looked like he had blocked me. I didn’t believe it at first, but when I verified this on my girlfriend’s telephone (if a person has blocked you on WhatsApp their profile picture doesn’t show), I saw that I really was blocked.
In panic I went back to the apartment. Holding my breath I unlocked the door and it opened. My relief was short lived as a man was standing in ‘my’ living room! He told me that this was his home, that he lived here and had just gotten back from a trip. I couldn’t believe it but was too dumbfounded to ask questions.
‘It looked like breaking and entering’
The man even told me that I wasn’t the first person to enter his house that morning and that a few things had even been stolen from his apartment, ‘it looked like breaking and entering’ he said. A million things were running through my mind. Had I just lost EUR 1,000 to a scammer?
After regaining my composure I left and contacted the police. They took my statement and told me that I wasn’t the only one filing a complaint of this nature. I don’t know if the real owner was involved in the scam. He looked flustered and not the type to engage in criminal activity, but who knows. Things are not always what they seem.
I feared for my safety
Two weeks later I had come to terms with the fact that I had been scammed and that I had lost my money. My good friends helped me out, not only with accommodation but with emotional support as well.
But one day, while at work, the craziest thing happened. I saw the landlord, the person that scammed me. It threw me off and put me back to square one. This wasn’t the last time I saw him either. Since then I have been afraid. I feel as if I am being watched and I try to stay inside. Nigel Andres Boon is a hefty guy and so are his friends, so you can understand why I feel like this.
Taking its toll
While I was struggling with safety issues, Boon freely roaming around Delft, unafraid of the police – who had copies of his ID – probably scamming more students. Since then I’ve contacted my faculty counsellor, who referred me to a psychologist if I needed extra emotional support. And the money? That is all gone, as is my faith in humanity. I am thankful for my friends and for the fact that I’ll be moving into a real room quite soon.
As time goes by I’ve started to regain my confidence. But the situation has taken its toll on my studies. That’s the worst thing. As an international student, I don’t have the financial means to cover a delay in my studies. I need to finish on time and to get good grades. If I don’t, it will cost me big time. What keeps me going is my desire to warn other students and my hope that the police will investigate this further.”
Thorough background check
According to a Delft police spokesman, several statements have been taken. The situation at present is under consideration. The police warn all students to be watchful and to always carry out a background check. Students should always ask for identification. Scammers are always reluctant to hand over personal information as they prefer to be anonymous. Once you get their identification, you can check with the municipality if a property is registered to the person you are in contact with.