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Spike in holiday accommodation fraud reported to gardaí in last three years

New figures show that more than €1.4 million was stolen in rental scams over the four-year period.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A TD HAS issued a warning to the public about holiday accommodation fraud as figures show a spike in cases.

Emer Higgins TD said she obtained figures showing a rise in incidents of accommodation fraud reported to the Gardaí.

The stats show a rise in reported incidents from 231 in 2019 to 276 last year, with 850 cases from 2019 to the start of May. More than €1.4 million was stolen in rental scams over the four-year period.

“While there was a slight drop in incidents of accommodation fraud due to the pandemic in 2020, there was a 20% rise in the number of incidents in 2021, with €463,934 stolen through fraudulent activity that year. There were 115 cases to May this year.

“There are generally two types of accommodation fraud, rental scams for those seeking long-term accommodation and holiday rental fraud, which targets people booking accommodation for a holiday. The latter can be harder to detect as the property may be in a different country so there’s no option to view it beforehand.

“With holiday rental fraud, the vast majority of victims usually spot an advert on social media and will have contacted the fraudster via social media or WhatsApp. Indeed this was the case in 2021, with 135 incidents of accommodation fraud happening online and 54 through social media,” she said. 

Higgins said social media companies must take action on the scams which are published on their sites. 

“I want to see more resources being allocated by social media companies for moderating content and combatting fraudulent ads and fraudsters who violate their policies.

“Gardaí can also liaise with social media companies to gather evidence when a criminal investigation is underway,” she added. 

Higgins said gardaí have told her that people must only use legitimate letting agencies and websites.

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She warned that in some cases bogus landlords will ask the guest to stay away from a legitimate website and move onto WhatsApp or another social media platform to complete the transaction.

She said this was a red flag and said often there is no comeback for those people caught in the swindle.

“Consumers should also remember that they are protected by law when they purchase a good or service from a legitimate website and pay through a legitimate method such as a credit card.

“Gardai are continuously monitoring crime trends to identify individuals who are engaged in these crimes. I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of accommodation fraud to contact the Gardai, as it will be investigated by authorities,” she explained. 

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