Students warned of scams relating to accommodation
A STUDENT accommodation fraud scam warning has been issued for all third-level students which targets new students and those returning to college seeking accommodation.
Gardai issued the warning advising people to be wary of rental scams which are prevalent at this time of the year as students return to college.
According to the Gardai, there were a total of 503 rental scams reported between February 1, 2019 and May 31, 2021, in which 42 per cent of those affected were under the age of 25 and almost half of these incidents occurred in Dublin.
Speaking with The Echo, Deputy President of TU Dublin Tallaght Campus, Lesley Barrett said that there were several things to keep in mind for students seeking accommodation to avoid scams.
“First and foremost, I would say that if it looks to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true,” she said.
“If you see images of a three-bedroom house with a pool for €500 that’s a scam – go with your gut instinct.”
Barrett says that a rule of thumb for any students looking for accom-modation is to ask three people who are not immediate friends for an unbiased opinion.
“If you are having doubts ask a work colleague, a family member or a fellow student because sometimes we can get caught in our own bubble. If something is not sitting right with you or you aren’t sure about something, ask three people and see what they think.”
According to Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardai National Economic Crime Bureau, students should only use recognised letting agencies or deal with people who are bona fide and trusted.
He said: “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.”
Echoing this, Barrett advises that advertisements on social media such as Facebook and Instagram can often be a scam as you do not need to be verified in anyway to post an advertisement.
One website recommended by colleges is StudentPad.ie, which offers different accommodation options such as shared accommodation, private rooms and digs which are all verified across Dublin for different colleges and decreases the risk of being scammed.
“TU Dublin is registered with it [StudentPad.ie] and it is a place where people can find legitimate accommodation. We advise people to use this or other trusted sites such as Daft.ie or MyHome.ie to find verified accommodation,” says Barrett.
Despite using these official and trusted sites, there is still a small risk of scams slipping through the net and not being legitimate, leading to students forking up massive amounts of money to fraudsters.
Although Dublin has seen rapid increase in the development of student accommodation buildings in recent years, there is still a lack of these type of specific buildings in the Tallaght area and students are often forced to find accommodation in surrounding areas and commute long distances for high rent prices due to becoming desperate to find somewhere.
“If someone says that the landlord is away but you can send the deposit on and they will give you the keys – don’t.
“It sounds ridiculous but when you have pressure on you, and you are desperate to find somewhere, especially if you are going into first year, that’s what scammers prey on.
“There is a timeline and an urgency and when an urgency is put on people that’s when they fall for these scams,” says Lesley.
Other red flags to look out for are unusual payment methods such as crypto-currency or cash payment, which is unlikely to be recovered in the case of fraud.
“Always do a bank transfer or use a credit card because if you do happen to be scammed a lot of the times, that can be reversed by the bank – never hand over cash to anyone.”
For more information and useful advice about finding student accommodation you can go to https://www.tudublinsu.ie/advice/accommodation/usefulresources/