Yesterday, An Garda Síochana (AGS) issued an official statement warning students of accommodation fraud ahead of the new academic year.
503 cases of rental scams occurred between 1 February 2019 and 31 May 2021, which amounted to over €900,000 stolen in this period.
72% of cases involved those under the age of 35, with 42% of cases involving people under the age of 25.
Nearly half of these incidents occurred in the Dublin region.
While cases of rental fraud have declined during the Covid-19 pandemic, AGS predict that the “new generation of 3rd level students” searching for accommodation will “be a target for fraudsters”.
Detective Superintendent of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau Michael Cryan advised students to “only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona fide and trusted”.
Cryan explained that since websites “can be cloned”, students should “check the URL and ensure it’s a real website”. Students should also “take note of the privacy and refund policy sections”.
The Detective Superintendent said: “Be very wary of social media advertisements or where a person letting the location will only communicate via [Facebook] messenger or whatsapp.” He also warned of “unsolicited contacts or where a contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions”.
“You should push for direct answers and if responses are vague, disengage immediately.”
He said that during the payment process “only use trusted money transfer systems” such as a credit card.
“Never transfer money direct, pay cash, [or] pay into cryptocurrency wallets. Be wary if a website is asking you to send money to a random PayPal address, wire it by Western Union, pay in iTunes gift cards or only deals in cryptocurrency. The majority of the time, those methods are done to avoid scrutiny and ensure that a transaction can’t be reversed”.
If a student suspects that they are a victim of a rental scam, they are urged to report it to their local Garda station and financial institution immediately.