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Scammers using Whatsapp and Daft to extort money from desperate renters

The property letting website has asked the messaging app for assistance to shut down the scam.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

A CRIMINAL GANG is making the most of Ireland’s housing crisis, honing in on wannabe-renters desperate to find accommodation.
Daft.ie has notified gardaí of a recent, elaborate scheme which has involved scammers posing as landlords after they obtained log-in details of legit advertisers through fake websites and Whatsapp.

The Whatsapp element of the scam is something a little different to what the company has previously seen, a spokesperson confirmed to TheJournal.ie.

“They are contacting people who advertise on the site through the messaging app, asking them to fill in their contact details. This is how they obtain a login and password to post fake properties.”

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Previously, scammers asked landlords for details by email. Now, they have moved to Whatsapp and generally use foreign numbers.

“They pretend to be from Daft, send a fake website which is a skim of Daft, and ask for the login details. This gives them access to an account to start posing fraudulent ads. The entire purpose is to eventually get someone to send money.”
Daft.ie has approached Whatsapp for assistance to block the numbers.

“It’s a case of fraudsters being cunning and smart,” continued the spokesperson. “The market is so tight, there are so few rentals, any accommodation that gets put up doesn’t last long. People are getting desperate.”

The company has also warned people to look out for “red flags” that could point towards an unreliable post.

They will often pose as out-of-the-country landlords; there will be typos in the advert; and the property will be up for rent at below-market rate. Often, if a prospective renter shows interest, they will be told they can’t be shown the property because they are working in a medical organisation abroad or that there has been a death in the family.

“They will suggest that you send them money via fund transfer or Western Union. They will ask for a deposit and first-month rent to secure the property.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that Daft never asks clients for login details to be supplied by email or Whatsapp. He also requested site users to deploy the ‘Report Ad Button’ if they see anything suspicious.

It is understood a number of victims have wired money to the scammers only to never hear from the ‘landlords’ again.

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