Back to school: Gardaí urge caution to students as €900k stolen in rental scams since 2019 10 months ago

Back to school: Gardaí urge caution to students as €900k stolen in rental scams since 2019

The pandemic saw a dip in reports but September's expected reopening of campuses is causing concern.

Gardaí are urging prospective students and their parents to beware of rental scams that have cost victims €900,000 since 2019.

Though rental scams declined as a result of online learning during the pandemic, many students preparing to return to on-site education will be searching for accommodation near their campuses, leaving them vulnerable to fraudsters.

Gardaí have revealed that there were a total of 503 cases of rental scams reported between February 1, 2019 and May 31, 2021.

Around €900,000 has been stolen within this period. 42% of all injured parties were under the age of 25, while 72% of all injured parties were under the age of 35.

Almost half of these incidents occurred in the Dublin Region.

Gardaí are now concerned that the coming academic year will leave more students cheated.

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

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"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."

The Superintendent added that those who fear they may have been subject to a scam should get their bank to stop the payment transfer as soon as possible and report the matter to Gardaí.