Gardaí have issued a warning to students returning to college to be wary of scams amid an increase in accommodation fraud this year.
They say that there is a spike in housing scams from August to October, and 2022 has so far seen an increase of over 50% in victims aged under 25.
Over €291,000 has been stolen this year, compared to almost €250,000 in 2019.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau said that people should only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona fide and trusted.
He said that websites can be cloned, so people are advised to check the URL to ensure it is 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,” he said.
“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’.”
He said that if you have decided to take up the offer only use trusted money transfer systems, Gardaí recommend using a credit card.
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)
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.