Gardai investigate international criminal gangs involved in rental fraud as warning to students

Fraud detectives suspect that a number of internationally organized criminal gangs are involved in lucrative housing fraud in this country, as well as so-called “Chancer” criminals who are trying to rip off potential tenants.

The revelation comes after Gardai today warned of rent fraud after people were scammed out of more than €290,000 this year alone.

It comes when third year students return to college and are looking for housing for the new academic year.

“In some of these cases, there are suspicions that organized crime is involved in this type of crime and the Gardai have become increasingly aware of this type of activity and are trying to identify the masterminds of these scams,” a senior source said.

“It is suspected that the criminal organizations behind these scams have used money mules across Ireland to try to launder the money received from the scammers.

“Gardai is investigating cases where foreign nationals have been scammed into offering accommodation in this country and Irish nationals have been scammed when buying accommodation abroad, as well as students who have also been targeted.

“Some of these scams are relatively sophisticated, using cloned websites and even pop-up ads to lure victims,” ​​the source explained.

Gardaí announced today that accommodation fraud has increased by 30 per cent this year compared to the same period in 2019, with an average of €1,300 stolen.

A staggering €291,452 was stolen in 2022 compared to almost €250,000 in 2019.

Almost half of these recorded incidents (about 50 per cent) occur in Dublin, and the number of victims of accommodation fraud under the age of 25 increased by 50 per cent in 2022.

There is also a noticeable spike in housing fraud from August through October, during the return-to-college timeframe.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Gardaí National Economic Crime Bureau said students should only use reputable rental agencies or deal with real people.

“Websites can be cloned, check the URL to make sure it’s a real website and respect the privacy and refund policies,” he suggested.

“Also be very wary of advertising on social media or if a person renting the location only communicates via Messenger or WhatsApp. They should push for direct answers and withdraw immediately if the answers are vague.”

Detective Superintendent Cryan also urged people to be on the lookout for unwanted contacts or when the contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions, and particularly when there is a sense of urgency such as “a one-time offer.”

“Once you’ve decided to accept the offer, use only trusted money transfer systems,” he added. “A Garda Síochána would recommend using a credit card. Never transfer money directly, pay cash, deposit in cryptocurrency wallets.

“Be careful when a website asks you to send money to a random PayPal address, or asks you to pay via Western Union, or pay with iTunes gift cards, or asks you to pay for long-term rentals through a short-term rentals website or trades cryptocurrency only.

“Most of the time, these methods are done to avoid verification and ensure a transaction cannot be reversed.”

Other warning signs are when the landlord is not able to meet you in person and show you the property and when communication is only via text messages/Whatsapp or other social media platforms.

Another is when the property is offered with no questions asked and payment is requested immediately prior to signing the lease and when you are asked to pay in cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer (e.g. wire transfer).

You should also never agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to inspect it and without handing over cash. Gardai investigate international criminal gangs involved in rental fraud as warning to students

Fry Electronics Team

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