AS GARDAÍ issue a warning about a substantial increase in accommodation fraud, students unions in Cork have said they are on hand to assist students.
Gardaí have warned of a spike in incidents targeting young people as students return to college, with more than a 50% increase in victims of accommodation fraud aged under 25 in 2022.
“Students should consult with their accommodation office if they are unsure of whether or not a property is legitimate,” said MTU Cork Students’ Union president Isobel Kavanagh.
She said if it looks too good to be true, it probably is and warned against rushing into signing a contract.
“Students should not feel like they are under pressure to sign any leases or to pay anything before they are sure that the property is real and habitable.”
UCC Students’ Union (UCCSU) welfare officer Alannah O’Connor agreed they are seeing an increase in rental scams and highlighted a vulnerable cohort.
“Students are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable or adequate accommodation,” she said. “These students are being taken advantage of and we are seeing a rise in rental scams. UCCSU have seen that the students who are most vulnerable to these rental scams are international students who are not familiar with the Irish rental market.
“UCCSU recommends that anyone who is in the process of starting a tenancy views the property and establishes that the person renting out the property owns and has access to it before handing over any money. Anyone who has already fallen victim to any of these rental scams should report it to An Garda Síochána as soon as possible.”
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau also offered advice.
“You should only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona fida and trusted,” he said. “Websites can be cloned, check the url to ensure it’s a real website and take note of the privacy and refund policy sections. 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 also advised people to use trusted money transfer systems, avoid paying into cryptocurrency wallets, and be “wary if a website is asking you to send money to a random PayPal address or asking you to wire it... or pay for long-term rental accommodation via a short-term letting website”.