There has been a 65% increase in rent scams in the last four years, according to An Garda Siochana. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Laura Harmon, Executive Director of the Irish Council for International Students, said that international students who come to Ireland for study have been particularly impacted.
“There are scammers out there trying to take advantage of people, she said”.
Housing charity Threshold has issued advice along the Irish Council for International Students and the Union of Students in Ireland in what they call ‘The Scamwatch campaign’. The charity has advised viewing a property in person, being aware of offers that sound suspicious such as exceptionally low rent, a landlord living abroad or the requesting of money to a foreign bank account.
Why are rent scams surging?
As the world becomes more digitally interconnected, the realm of online rentals has also shifted online. Unfortunately, this transition has brought about a troubling consequence: an alarming rise in rental scams. Over the past four years, the prevalence of rent scams has surged, leaving many potential renters vulnerable to financial loss and emotional distress.
Let’s examine the factors that have contributed to the increase in rental scams, from the boom in online rental transactions to the unprecedented logistical challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Digital Shift: More Online Rental Transactions
The exponential growth of online platforms has revolutionised how we search for and secure rentals. With the convenience of digital listings, potential renters can browse properties, compare prices, and communicate with landlords at the click of a button. However, this very convenience has created a fertile ground for scammers to exploit unsuspecting individuals, particularly international renters. The sheer volume of online transactions has made it easier for fraudulent listings to go undetected among legitimate ones, amplifying the risk of falling victim to rent scams.
Rental property supply shortages
Many renters are in dire need of affordable housing options. Scammers take advantage of this vulnerability by offering seemingly attractive rental deals with low prices and flexible terms. The urgency to secure housing, coupled with limited housing options, can cloud judgment and lead potential renters to overlook warning signs of fraudulent listings.
Impersonation and Identity Theft
Rent scams often involve impersonation, where scammers pose as landlords or property managers. They use stolen photos and information from legitimate listings to create fake advertisements. These fraudulent listings typically have lower-than-average prices or extraordinary offers to lure potential victims. The goal is to entice individuals into sharing personal information, such as identification documents, proof of income, and even payment details. The scammers then use this stolen information for identity theft or financial fraud. At Secureprop.com – we authenticate landlords via our Secureprop Verify service offering.
Technological Advancements of Scammers
Scammers have evolved alongside technology, becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. They use virtual private networks (VPNs) and disposable email addresses to hide their true identities. Some even create professional-looking websites to legitimise their operations. These tactics make it challenging for potential renters to distinguish between genuine and fraudulent listings.
Lack of Regulation and Oversight
The online rental market often lacks proper regulation and oversight, making it easier for scammers to operate undetected. Unlike traditional property transactions that involve real estate agents and legal documentation, online rental transactions can sometimes lack these layers of accountability, leaving renters more susceptible to scams.
The surge in online rental scams over the past four years in Ireland is a concerning trend that reflects the ever-evolving landscape of cybercrime. As more rental transactions move online and the complexity of scams increases, it’s imperative for potential renters to remain vigilant. By understanding the factors that have led to this increase and adopting preventive measures, individuals can navigate the digital rental market with caution and confidence, avoiding the pitfalls of rental scams.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there are supports in place for victims of rent scams and financial crimes. If you or a friend or family member has been impacted by crime, there are a number of organisation in Ireland who can help. We recommend reaching out for support via the Crime Victims Helpline in Ireland (registered Irish Charity) as it can be helpful to receive support from family, friends or support services. You can contact the Crime Victims Helpline Freephone at 116006.
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