Student Accommodation Fraud Scam Warning for 3rd Level Students. 31st August, 2022.
• There has been an increase of 30% in accommodation fraud in 2022, in comparison with 2019 (February–July 2022 v February-July 2019 (Note: pandemic restriction years omitted))
• €1300 is the median amount stolen
• Approximately 50% of incidents occur in Dublin
• The return to college timeframe (August- October) shows a spike in accommodation fraud
• Over 50% increase in victims of accommodation fraud aged under 25 in 2022
• €291,452 stolen in 2022 versus almost €250,000 in 2019

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

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau gave the following advice:

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.

Be wary if a website is asking you to send money to a random PayPal address or asking you to wire it by Western Union or pay in iTunes gift cards or ask you to pay for long-term rental accommodation via a short-term letting website or only deals in cryptocurrency. Most of the time, those methods are done to avoid scrutiny and ensure that a transaction can not be reversed.

Red Flags/Warning Signs:

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

Check List:
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.