Identifying rental scams is not easy, especially if the scammer has access to the property in question and can host viewings. A lot of rental scammers will copy details and photos from previous property advertisements to create a fake rental listing, however, this stories illustrates how some criminals are going even further – renting a property on a short term basis to gain access, take photos and potentially even host viewings under the guise that they own the property.
This scam occurred in an upmarket area of South Dublin where rental prices are high. The victim (a family in urgent need of accommodation) was scammed out of €24,000 when they paid six months rent upfront for a property which was rented out without its owner’s consent. The legitimate owners had initially decided to let the house on a short-term basis while on holiday. This inadvertently enabled the fraud as criminals rented it for a weekend and created a fake property rental listing, pretending of course to own the property. The listing was advertised via social media and a family, who urgently needed accommodation, ended up agreeing to take it and paid a six-month rental deposit upfront.
Detective Inspector Steven Meighan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau stated that “a couple of days later, the victims turn up to move into their new let and the legitimate property owner is back”. I’m sure this was quite a shock for both the victims and indeed the homeowner.
“If anybody has any concerns and believe they are victims of this crime, call to your local garda station and make a report,” said Det Insp Meighan. “People might feel they are embarrassed about this, but they will be treated with sympathy and the strictest confidence.” It does beg the question as to how many smaller scams of this nature actually go unreported, the sum involved in this instance was so large that it would, in the vast majority of cases, get reported.
Lessons learned and prevention tips
Clearly a very traumatic event for the victims but can we learn from this story?
- Don’t be rushed: these criminals had a relatively short window of time to conclude this transaction, applying as much time pressure as possible. Take your time and consult with others if you are unsure or something doesn’t feel right.
- Pay via escrow: the renters in this instance would have avoided the scam if the upfront rental payment was held in escrow prior to the move in date. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even have progressed to that stage as the scammer would have known that they wouldn’t profit.
- Social media: pay closer attention to property advertisements on social media.
- Large pre-let payment request: the request from the rental scammers in this instance of 6 months rent prior to move in is excessive and not in line with market norms.
Did you know?
Some stats regarding Irish rent scams to finish with:
- €516,000 : Gardai estimate accommodation fraud was up 30 per cent in 2021 with 279 incidents reported over that period, leading to the theft of €516,000 in rental scams (the actual number is probably much larger however a significant amount of fraud goes unreported).
- Under 25: Almost half of victims are aged under 25.
- Female Majority: 58% of victims are female.
Need additional support?
Are you or your organisation attempting to eradicate online rental scams in your community? If so, contact us today to learn how we can help. We offer a suite of services, tailored to our partners’ needs and designed specifically to eradicate scams and secure online platforms – see some of our services below:
- Red flag detection – Our systems detect a range of red flags listed above.
- Landlord and renter identity verification – we can verify landlord and renter identity using a blend of biometric, document & database checks.
- Secure payments – we secure payments for landlords and renters as well as holding pre let rental payments and deposits in Escrow.