Student’s warned over accommodation fraud ahead of the new college term

Gardaí are advising people to be wary of rental scams, particularly at this time of year when students are returning to college.

There has been an increase of 30% in accommodation fraud in 2022, in comparison with 2019, with €291,452 stolen from victims, so, Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau has set out a list of Red Flags to watch out for when searching for possible accommodation:

  1. When the landlord is unable to meet up to show you the property in person.
  2. When communication is only through Text / WhatsApp or other social media platform.
  3. When the property is offered with no questions asked and payment demanded immediately before signing the lease.
  4. When you are asked to pay cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer (such as wire transfer).

He has also given the following advice to students and parents ahead of the new college term;

You should only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona-fida and trusted.

Websites can be cloned, check the URL to ensure it’s a real website and take note of the privacy and refund policy sections.

Be very wary of social media advertisements or where a person letting the location will only communicate via messenger or WhatsApp. You should push for direct answers and if responses are vague disengage immediately.

Watch out for unsolicited contacts or where the contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions and especially if there is a sense of urgency like “a one-time offer”.

If you have decided to take up the offer only use trusted money transfer systems, An Garda Síochána would recommend using a credit card. Never transfer money direct, pay cash, pay into cryptocurrency wallets.

Most of the time, those methods are done to avoid scrutiny and ensure that a transaction can not be reversed.

Below is a check list to keep in mind before renting:

  • Never agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to view it.
  • Do not hand over cash. Insist upon a proper receipt.
  • Ensure that the keys work and you have proper contact details for the landlord/agent.