Scammers targeting students on accommodation search

Students and parents across the region have been warned to be wary of an accommodation scam being operated on the net possibly by an international con gang.

In the run-up to the start of the third-level college season in September, some accommodation units in Galway – being offered on the net – don’t exist in the first place.

Galway Crime Prevention Officer, Sgt. Pat Flanagan, said that the locations being offered for rent are not owned by those advertising them on the net.

He said that bank account details were being sought from prospective tenants and payments being made on deposit or in rental advances were ending up in bank accounts outside of Ireland.

The scam gang are targeting the country’s major third level cities and towns such as Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.

Sgt. Flanagan outlined a few basic steps that prospective tenants and their parents should take before they agree on any accommodation deal.

He said that online maps should be used to verify the existence of a property while prospective tenants should always meet the landlord in the accommodation to be rented.

Sgt. Flanagan said that if dealing with an agent, it was a relatively simple process to check if they were from a reputable agency.

He said that prospective tenants should always ask for identification as well as double checking all phone numbers and other contact details.

“Make sure you visit the property before paying a deposit and are happy with the condition.

“Bring anything in less than perfect condition to the attention of the landlord. and take a photograph of it for record purposes,” said Sgt. Flanagan. He also issued the following advice pointers:

■ Pay the deposit to the landlord not the person leaving the property.
■ Use cheques or bank drafts to pay the deposit and keep copies of receipts of payment and any correspondence.
■ If you are suspicious in any way contact the Gardai immediately.