Renters have been warned to be especially careful after a student was scammed out of €1,800 by a landlord who advertised a room that did not exist.
Frenchman Antone was looking online for a room to rent in Dublin when he was contacted by a woman who claimed to be a landlord in the Tallaght area.
“She asked me if I was interested,” Antone recalled to Lunchtime Live.
“So I said, ‘Yes, I’m really interested because I can’t find a room.’”
She told him the room could be rented for €600 a month and the pair arranged a viewing over Skype in a few days time.
“I saw her, she saw me, the video didn’t work very well, so we continued [our conversation] by messenger but I did see her,” he continued.
After exchanging photos, the woman asked for Antone’s personal details and sent him a contract to read and sign. After sending it on to his aunt - who also speaks English - Antone signed it and was asked for the first month’s rent and a deposit.
“I made the payment, so it was €600 for the first month and the deposit of €1,200. So it was €1,800 in total,” he said wearily.
The woman confirmed she had received proof of payment, Antone flew to Dublin and then took an Uber to the address in Tallaght.
“I went to the house and I knocked on the door and there was a man who opened the door.
“I introduced myself, I said ‘hello’, I’ve come here because I’ve rented a room here but I was surprised to see a man open the door.”
The man was just as surprised to see Antone and it was then that he realised he had been scammed. He has since reported the fraud to An Garda Síochána and is staying in a hotel until he can find somewhere real to live.
Not a one off
John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold, says that because the housing market so overheated, such scams have become increasingly easy to pull off:
“Unfortunately, he [Anton] is not alone in that regard,” Mr McCafferty said.
“There’s all sorts of ways in which scammers are trying to extract money from people who are in desperate need of housing right now.
“With such little supply, potential renters are so desperate accommodation that they risk letting their guards down.”
He said there are a few simple steps people should take to avoid being tricked by criminals:
“Be really, really wary if people who purport to be landlords are using just WhatsApp and Messenger and not using any other mode of communication,” he advised.
“Also contacts from outside Ireland - that would be a red flag.
“And if it seems too good to be true as an offer, it probably is.”
Main image: A renter uses a debit card online.