Students warned over rental scamsMike Finnerty 16 Aug 2023
College students are being warned about common rental scams ahead of the return to campus.
Housing charity Threshold has issued advice along the Irish Council for International Students and the Union of Students in Ireland in what they call ‘The Scamwatch campaign’.
The campaign highlights the ‘dos and don’ts’ of finding accommodation, where to get advice about tenancy rights in the private sector and safeguards to avoid scams.
Students are targeted by scams where people pose as landlords offering accommodation that may be misleading or that does not exist.
False websites are becoming increasingly common, as well as websites that appear as replicas of real letting platforms.
Scammers are also using social media to target students.
The Irish Council for International Students said that students coming from abroad are often more vulnerable to scams, with a survey last year finding that almost one in seven international students had fallen victim to such a scam.
There has been a 65% increase in accommodation scams in the last four years, according to gardaí.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Laura Harmon, Executive Director of the Irish Council for International Students, said that international students who come to Ireland for study have been particularly impacted.
“There are scammers out there trying to take advantage of people. Our advice is to view the property in person, get the agent’s ID and sign a written contract in the presence of another person,” she said.
The charity has advised viewing a property in person, being aware of offers that sound suspicious such as exceptionally low rent, a landlord living abroad or the requesting of money to a foreign bank account.
The Union of Students in Ireland urged students to contact them for help and said any victims of scams should report this to the gardaí.
Labour Senator Annie Hoey has welcomed the campaign, but said “we need to have an honest conversation and the inequalities that the housing crisis is perpetuating when it comes to accessing education.”
“These scams are working so well because students are at their wits end trying to find affordable accommodation in our cities.”