Gardaí are advising people to be wary of rental scams, particularly at this time of year when students are returning to college, with €900,000 stolen in these incidents since 2019.
While accommodation frauds have declined in recent months due to Covid-19 restrictions, gardaí have highlighted that the new generation of third level students seeking accommodation could be a target for fraudsters.
There were a total of 503 cases of rental scams reported between February 1st, 2019 and May 31st, 2021.
Almost half of these incidents occurred in the Dublin Region and just over €900,000 was stolen in rental scams over this period.
Forty-two per cent of all injured parties were under the age of 25, while 72 per cent of all injured parties were under the age of 35.
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, I 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, 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.”