A recent PhD graduate has said searching for accommodation in Dublin was “the most difficult time in my life”.
Gardaí have warned that accommodation fraud peaks in August and September and that half of all victims are under the age of 25.
They also warned there had been a 38% rise in reporting of the crime between 2021 and 2022.
The housing crisis means many students become increasingly desperate in their search and they can be easily tricked into parting with their cash for nonexistent rooms.
One recent PhD graduate was unaware when he moved to Dublin to study at DCU just how difficult and demoralising the hunt for accommodation would be.
“That was the most difficult time in my life,” he told reporter Josh Crosbie for The Pat Kenny Show.
“I moved from England; that was when I first realised accommodation was very difficult to find.
“I had nowhere to stay.
“I searched for accommodation from February 28th when I arrived, it wasn’t until May 1st [that I found something].”
In the end, he found temporary accommodation with a member of his Church and had to fire off 564 applications before he found somewhere permanent.
PhD student Alan Kumar also moved to Ireland to study at DCU and found had a similarly long and tortuous search.
“I lived in an Airbnb for 10 days,” he said.
“I was applying for accommodation like crazy on Daft, I was posting on Facebook as well but eventually I found accommodation for about one month.
“Then, I needed to search for accommodation again because it was temporary.
“I put in about 600 applications through Daft.”
Mr Kumar is currently living close to DCU but is paying €900 a month for a “tiny” room that he cannot work in.
“I want to move out,” he said.
“I come here literally every day to work because in my room, there’s no table to study.”
In his experience, there is an awful lot of fraudsters in housing groups on Facebook trying to trick people into sending cash upfront.
“There were ladies who said, ‘You can pay me right now,’” he recalled.
“I said, ‘Can I do a viewing before I make a payment?’
“They said, ‘No, no, no. We want you to at least make a deposit.’”
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan said should take particular care if they have found a property on social media.
“The vast majority [of scams] are probably online nowadays,” he said.
“Traditionally, a victim would meet some fella and pay over a deposit, he may take deposits from 10 different people.
“It’s nearly all online now and advertised through social media.”
He also said there are a number of other red flags to bear in mind when searching for a place to live.
“One of them is, if the rent is too good to be true,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as cheap accommodation - especially in urban areas in the big cities or near colleges.
“Also, a red flag is how you became aware of it; if the person will only communicate via WhatsApp or text messages - that’s a kind of red flag too if they won’t meet you.”
Anyone who believes they have been scammed is advised to contact their bank and An Garda Síochána.
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Main image: House keys.