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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 16 February, 2019
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Elaborate stories and 'too good to be true' ads: how scammers target students

Students moving to Ireland for the first time have been warned to watch out for fake accommodation ads.

Image: Shutterstock/GaudiLab

WHEN THEY ARRIVED in Ireland two weekends ago, Austrian students Marie Therese Sramek and Tanja Rosenecker discovered that the Dublin 8 apartment they had booked online was never theirs to live in.

An elderly woman answered the door at the address the landlord had given them.

There was little chance, they soon realised, that their €550 deposit would ever be returned.

Both social work students from Vienna, they came to Ireland to volunteer with a homelessness charity in the city.

“[Before we left Austria,] we thought something was wrong when [the person who scammed us] didn’t reply,” Sramek said.

But we thought, ‘OK, we’ve already booked the flights and we have to do our student placement, so we don’t have a choice.’

Advertising low rents

The experience is not an uncommon one among non-Irish students looking for accommodation, according to student representatives.

Students moving here for the first time are more likely to be duped by fake listings advertising rates significantly lower than going rental prices, Clare O’Connor from UCD Students’ Union said.

“Some of them are being advertised for €500 a month, whereas most other places are looking for at least €700,” she told TheJournal.ie.

Two Indian students I spoke to recently were in touch with a man who said he was in England for a while and that they could view the apartment from the outside.

After getting advice, the students decided not the pay the agreed-upon deposit of €800.

11880680_10152897989416910_5628823254332228262_n Student leaders promote the USI's free rooms listing website, homes.usi.ie. Source: Andres Poveda

Jimmy McGovern from NUI Galway Students’ Union said he was aware of a number of complaints from Galway-bound international students about a landlord who claimed to be living in the UK.

The landlord asked that they send on bank details, as well as scanned photos of their passports, saying his solicitor needed this information to lease to property.

Scammers are aware of the rapid uptake of accommodation at this time of year and often target students with little experience of the rental market, according to Conor Clancy from TCD Students’ Union.

These often come in the form of ‘too good to be true’ properties around colleges and the emails often describe elaborate stories as to why the false renter cannot be in the country to do a viewing.

A spokesperson for the union’s accommodation advisory service said at least two incoming Trinity students have been scammed by fake ads in recent weeks, with one losing a €1,000 deposit as well as her first month’s rent.

Avoiding scammers

Aoife Ní Shúilleabháin, welfare officer for the Union of Students in Ireland, warned students looking for accommodation to always view a property before paying a deposit.

“If you are paying your deposit or rent make sure that you get a receipt every time,” she said.

Property website Daft.ie advises renters to be wary of long-distance landlords who request wire funds through Western Union or other electronic transfer services.

Listings that are filled with grammatical errors are another common red flag, according to its guidelines.

Read: Student accommodation is an absolute disaster in this country – when will government respond?

Read: UCD changed its campus accommodation system and some students are NOT happy

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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