GNECB Fraud Awareness Week: Accommodation Fraud
An Garda Síochána is warning people to be extra vigilant for accommodation fraud, particularly now at a time when society and foreign travel has opened up again. While the number of incidents of accommodation fraud was down by over 17% in 2020 because of the global pandemic, there was a 30% increase in the amount of accommodation fraud reported in 2021. Successful accommodation fraudsters convince their targets, from the young to the middle-aged, to pay a deposit, and sometimes even rent in advance, for accommodation that either doesn’t exist or does exist but isn’t for rent leaving them stranded and out of pocket.
What are the Two Types of Accommodation Fraud?
In this case, fraudsters target people who are often under pressure because they need to find accommodation in a particular area or within a specific budget and/or timeframe. Targets are usually under 25 and students who are seeking rentals at a time when demand for properties is high. The situation can be made even worse if the student is a foreign national; they may already be paying high rates for temporary accommodation or they could have arranged everything online, playing directly into the hands of the fraudsters.
In this case, the targets are generally middle-aged and the rental scams involve holiday rentals and these are likely to become more prevalent in the months ahead with foreign travel opening up again. In the majority of these cases, the victim will have spotted an advert on social media and will have communicated with the fraudster only via social media/WhatsApp.
What are the Red Flags for Accommodation Fraud?
• The rent seems too good to be true
• The listing contains grammar or spelling mistakes and is on social media
• All communication is only via WhatsApp or social media
• The landlord says they are away and can’t meet you to show you the accommodation
• Payment is requested immediately before signing a lease
• Payment is requested in cash/PayPal/wire transfer/iTunes gift cards/ cryptocurrency
• The account to pay into is in a different country.
How to Avoid Accommodation Fraud?
• Only use recognised letting agencies; websites can be cloned too so check the URL to ensure it’s a real website
• Be wary of social media adverts or landlords who will only communicate via social media
• Make sure the property exists and ask questions about the property – disengage immediately if the responses are vague
• Only use trusted money transfer systems such as credit cards. NEVER transfer money using methods that can’t be reversed (e.g., cash, direct bank transfers, cryptocurrency, PayPal, wire (e.g., Western Union), iTunes gift cards, etc.)
• Do a landlord check through the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) website
• Check the IBAN of the landlord’s account (e.g., on https://www.iban.com/iban-checker) to make sure it’s not in a different country
• If booking a holiday rental, use a booking agent or hotel website directly or make sure any third-party websites are secure.
Speaking at the briefing Detective Inspector Steven Meighan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said, “now that society has reopened, there are many more opportunities for fraudsters. We would advise people to be extra vigilant to avoid becoming a target. In recent cases victims sent their money to accounts in Spain and the UK – always check the IBAN of the account you have been asked to send your money to; it’s usually a good indicator of fraud if the bank is in a different country. For longer-term rentals do a landlord check, make sure the landlord can show you the property and that you get an appropriate tenancy agreement. Trust your instincts and, like anything in life, if the offer sounds too good to be true then it probably is.”
Gardaí are advising members of the public who believe they are a victim of accommodation fraud to contact any Garda Station and report the crime.
Source: An Garda Síochána