Friday 28 October 2016

Victims of elaborate €4,500 scam warn new students to be wary

Patrick Kelleher

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

Rent problem: Rebecca Hart
Rent problem: Rebecca Hart

College students on the hunt for accommodation are being targeted by fraudulent online scams.

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A record 80,887 students are expected to flock to colleges this September to begin their studies. Finding affordable accommodation is a challenge many will face.

Online scam artists are targeting vulnerable students with elaborate back stories and complicated payment schemes.

Victims of online scams are warning freshmen students to act with caution and "double check" rental sites to avoid losing monies.

Rebecca Hart (22), from Carnew, Co Wicklow, found herself caught in the middle of an accommodation scam with four of her friends last June.

Between the five students, they paid out almost €4,500 for a deposit and first month's rent on a house in the Stillorgan area of Dublin.

However, the letting turned out to be fraudulent, and Rebecca and her friends lost all their money after one of them transferred the sum to a bank account.

The five young women had to "beg, borrow and steal" to get the money together to pay an "elderly couple", who were allegedly living in the UK, to rent the house. The couple informed the young women that they should make the payments through TripAdvisor, and referred the women to the website. They later found out the 'TripAdvisor' they were referred to was a fake version of the website, designed to scam people.

"They go to estate agents' websites and take the properties off their websites. So every property that this couple are supposedly 'renting' is for rent [by somebody else], they just don't own it," Rebecca said. .

Since their ordeal, the five women have been to the gardaí, their banks and the website the property was advertised on to try to get their money back, but nothing has been done.

Rebecca is now advising students to be careful of potential scams

"No matter how careful you are, you need to check and double-check as the scammers are extremely clever," she said.

Irish Independent

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