Student accommodation crisis Ireland: Don’t pay in cryptocurrency, insist on a viewing and make sure the keys work: gardaí warn students on rental scammers

Gardaí have warned students to beware of scammers preying on students desperate to secure accommodation ahead of the start of the new academic year.

he force said there has been a 30pc increase in scams this year when compared with 2019.

The return to the academic year shows a spike in accommodation fraud and approximately 50pc of incidents occur in Dublin.

Figures show that €291,452 was stolen in 2022 when compared with almost €250,000 in 2019. €1,300 was the median amount stolen, gardaí said.

There has also been more than a 50pc increase in victims of accommodation fraud aged under 25 so far this year.

Gardaí have advised 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 urged students to only use “recognised” letting agencies.

Superintendent Cryan said people should be “very wary” of advertisements on social media or where a person letting the location will only communicate via messenger or Whatsapp.

He advised people to push for direct answers and if responses are vague, “disengage immediately”.

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

“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 cannot be reversed.”

Gardaí also urged students to be aware of any “red flags” or warning signs including if the landlord is unable to meet up to show you the property in person.

These include when communication is only through text or WhatsApp or other social media platforms or when the property is offered with no questions asked and payment demanded immediately before signing the lease.

Scammers also asked to pay cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer such as wire transfer.

Students and their families have also been warned to never agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to view it.

Do not hand over cash, insist upon a proper receipt and ensure that the keys work, and you have proper contact details for the landlord or agent, gardaí warned.