Several bodies are coming together to raise awareness of rental scams ahead of the new academic year.
Housing charity Threshold has joined forces with the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) and the Union of Students Ireland (USI).
The 'Scamwatch' campaign launches as thousands of students begin searching for accommodation across Ireland.
Each year, hundreds of students are targeted by fake landlords and scammers offering accommodation units and properties that they either purport to be renting, or don’t exist.
One student who fell victim to a complex scam last year was Levi Amarilo, who arrived in March from Brazil.
He spotted an ad on Facebook for a studio in Rathmines, which was posted by a fellow Brazilian.
He moved into this with his partner and became friendly with the man he had paid €2,400 for a deposit and one months’ rent to.
He told him his brother was also coming to Ireland from Brazil, and this man suggested he move to a larger property on the River Liffey for €3,000 a month.
Levi viewed this property and decided to move there, and he and his partner spent all of their money on the €6,000 required for the deposit and month’s rent.
Two days after they moved in, he awoke to find 12 people in the front room, after the 'landlord' had given them all keys to move in on the same day, and subsequently fled to São Paulo.
The other people were from countries including Chile, Mexico, Spain and Brazil.
The property was only vacant temporarily, and despite the Gardaí involvement there was no refunds as the scammer had escaped out of the jurisdiction.
Only through the help of his Irish employer - who provided him with a short-term hotel room to stay in and a loan which he repaid - did he and his partner manage to successfully rent another studio and remain in Ireland.
Most common scams
False websites are reportedly becoming an increasingly common platform for scams, as well as websites that appear as replicas of real letting platforms such as Daft.ie and Airbnb.
Fake accounts posing as landlords offering accommodation on social media websites such as Facebook are also becoming a regular location for rental scams to take place.
Dos and don't
The new campaign highlights the 'dos and don’ts' for students.
- Inspect the property in person. Whenever possible, visit the property and the landlord in person before making any payments
- Ask for a contract by requesting a written contract that clearly explains the terms and conditions of the rental agreement
- Seek advice and consult with student support services and unions, or housing experts like Threshold, if you have doubts or concerns
- Don't share personal information online, and be cautious about sharing personal information on public platforms, especially social media
- Don't ignore red flags. Pay attention to suspicious situations like exceptionally low rent, a landlord living abroad or foreign bank account details
- Don't use unsecured payment methods like wire transfers or cryptocurrency for rental transactions
Threshold CEO John-Mark McCafferty said the organisation is aware of a 'surge' of rental scams.
"In a highly competitive, low supply rental market scams are on the rise," he said.
"It's important that students and all renters nationwide are aware of such scams and take the appropriate actions to prevent themselves from falling into these traps.
"To avoid rental scams, it is key that renters take precautions, such as requesting a written agreement of rental terms and conditions and using a secure payment method - and not cash in hand - after the contract has been signed and witnessed in the presence of the other party.
"Never rush headlong into anything - scammers do apply pressure, which is one of the telltale signs.
"We strongly encourage any student or renter who is unsure if they are being scammed to contact our advisors for free advice and support," he added.
Threshold's helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am- 9pm at 1800-454-454. More information can be found here
For student support and advice, contact the USI on (01)-7099-300.
Students moving to Ireland to study can contact ICOS on +353-1-660-5233 for information and advice.