Gardaí are urging students and parents to be particularly vigilant ahead of the upcoming academic year, warning that there has been a 30 per cent increase in accommodation frauds this year compared to 2019.
The figures, which do not include 2020 and 2021 due to the disrupting of the Covid-19 pandemic, found €291,452 was stolen between February-July 2022 compared to €250,000 during the same period of 2019.
There was also over a 50 per cent increase in victims under the age of 25 this year.
The median amount stolen in these recorded accommodation frauds was €1,300, with roughly half of the incidents occurring in Dublin.
Gardaí warned the return of third-level institutions for the new academic year also brings a spike in accommodation fraud between August-October.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau advised that those seeking accommodation should only use recognised letting agencies or people who are "bona fide and trusted".
"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'," he added.
The garda statement highlighted that warning signs of accommodation frauds include:
- When the landlord is unable to meet to show the property in person
- When they will only communicate through text, Whatsapp, or other social media platforms
- When the property is offered with no questions asks and payment is demanded immediately before signing the lease
- When you are asked to pay cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer (such as a wire transfer)
Gardaí said people should never agree to rent a property without viewing it first, and should insist on receiving a proper receipt for any payment. They should also ensure all keys work and that they have proper contact details for the landlord or agent.