Threshold, a housing charity in Ireland, has warned potential tenants to exercise caution when replying to advertisements for rental properties, in order to not fall victim to rental scams. Vulnerable tenants such as young, inexperienced renters and students are proving especially vulnerable in lettings fraud in their attempts to secure appropriate rental properties.

Scammers are taking advantage of the short supplies of suitable rental properties in Ireland, the UK and Europe. Renting scams have become exceptionally problematic for foreign students who wish to secure their accommodation before reaching the country. The crooks use false online advertisements and websites to show real properties that they do not have or own, at prices too attractive to miss, in an attempt to entice potential applicants into giving money upfront. However, once arriving, the victim discovers that they have been deceived.

There have also been cases where the con artist is a tenant themselves, showing people around the property, taking deposits and then vanishing with the cash. Tenants have also turned up to a property to find their keys do not work and the landlord is now not contactable. John-Mark McCafferty, Threshold’s Chief Executive, has stated that potential tenants must exercise caution when looking for accommodation, and has urged tenants to be wary of any landlord that claims to live outside of the country and cannot show you around the accommodation, whilst still requesting a deposit.

Threshold has set up an initiative in association with USI (Union of Students in Ireland) and Daft.ie, a lettings and estate agent, to increase awareness of the scams. The initiative, Scamwatch, has the aim of identifying potential rental fraud before people fall victim to it. Threshold has also begun liaising with student unions across Ireland to assist students who are facing problems finding appropriate rental accommodation.

The campaign is cautioning potential tenants to:

– be careful of offers that seem to attractive to miss. If the rental price seems to be a bargain, conduct research by searching for the rental prices of similar accommodation in the same location. Use an internet tool such as Google Maps to confirm the property actually exists. Also check the Residential Tenancies Board website for the Register of Landlords.

– never agree with a landlord to rent accommodation without viewing it properly and checking that you are satisfied with the conditions and terms of the let.

– do not pay cash and ensure you are given a receipt.

– do not transfer funds using an Electronic Fund Transfer Service to anyone claiming to be a landlord or agent of a property, without verifying their identity and credentials.

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