Renters, be Alert, Organised Crime, and Fraudsters?

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Gardai probe international criminal gangs involved in rental fraud as warning issued to students

 – 1h ago

Fraud squad detectives suspect that a number of international organised criminal gangs are involved in lucrative accommodation frauds in this country as well as so-called “chancer” criminals who are trying to rip off prospective tenants.

The revelation comes after gardai today warned about rental scams after people were tricked out of more than €290,000 this year alone.

It comes as third level students return to college and seek accommodation for the new academic year.

“In some of these case it is suspected that organised crime is involved in this type of crime and gardai have become increasingly aware of this type of activity and are attempting to identify those behind these frauds,” a senior source said.

“It is suspected that the criminal organisations behind these scams have been utilising money mules all across Ireland in an attempt to launder the cash received by the frauds.

“Gardai are investigating cases of foreign nationals being scammed in relation to accommodation being offered in this country and Irish nationals being scammed when they went to purchase accommodation abroad as well as students being targeted as well.

“Some of these frauds are relatively sophisticated with the use of cloned websites and even pop-up adds being used to lure the victims in,” the source explained.

Gardaí revealed today that there has been an increase of 30pc in accommodation fraud this year compared to same period in 2019, with an average of €1,300 stolen.

A staggering €291,452 was stolen in 2022 compared to almost €250,000 in 2019.

Almost half of these recorded incidents (approximately 50pc) occur in Dublin and there was a 50pc increase in victims of accommodation fraud aged under 25 in 2022.

There is also a noticeable spike in accommodation fraud from August to October, during the return to college timeframe.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau said students should only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are genuine.

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

“Also, 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.”

Detective Superintendent Cryan also urged people, to 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,” he added. “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.”

Other warning signs include when the landlord is unable to meet up to show you the property in person and when communication is only through text / WhatsApp or other social media platform.

Another one is when the property is offered with no questions asked and payment demanded immediately before signing the lease and when you are asked to pay cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer (such as wire transfer).

You should also never agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to view it and not hand over cash.

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