Wednesday 28 September 2016

Young couple 'devastated' after falling victim to €1,400 apartment scam

John Brennan

Published 02/02/2016 | 17:50

Patrick Hanlon (22) from Rathmines and his girlfriend Hannah Kelly (23) from Celbridge had their dreams of their first apartment shattered before their eyes.
Patrick Hanlon (22) from Rathmines and his girlfriend Hannah Kelly (23) from Celbridge had their dreams of their first apartment shattered before their eyes.

A young couple have spoken of their horror at realising that they had been scammed out of €1,400.

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Patrick Hanlon (22) from Rathmines in Dublin and his girlfriend Hannah Kelly (23) from Celbridge in Kildare had their dreams of their first apartment shattered in the incident.

Patrick told the Herald, “myself and my girlfriend are pretty much financially ruined as a result of this scam”.

The couple had been looking for a one bedroom apartment in the city and couldn’t believe their luck when they came across what seemed like the perfect property on Lower Kevin St on Rent.ie.

“I got in contact with the landlord David, who told us all details about the apartment, facilities, price, and asked us details about ourselves like our occupations and if we were in full time work.

“He told us since he was not living in the country that he would use the website Airbnb for rentals as it was a secure way to 'trust each other',” Patrick added.

The ‘property owner’ asked the young couple for €700 in rent as well as a further €700 to act as a deposit.

“In the itinerary we received it had a business bank account with a Beneficiary name for Airbnb in the UK, which we did not find suspicious seeing as in the past I have topped up my Paypal account via bank transfer to a bank in Germany,” Patrick said.

Patrick added, “Once we made the transfer, David got in contact to tell us we had not sent it within the 24 hours after agreement and that the money would return to our account with 24-48 hours, which we could then resend it.

“To double check, we used the Airbnb Live Chat on our itinerary and spoke to a 'correspondent' about the situation, where they explained in more detail than David had, and made us feel at ease about the situation,” he added.

However, as the days passed the young couple were horrified to realise that their savings were gone.

“We’re devastated, it’s such a big setback,” Patrick told the Herald.

A spokesperson for Rent.ie said it takes "a number of steps to thwart attempts to exploit our site".

"If anyone sees an ad they are suspicious of, they can report it to us via “Contact Us” located on the footer of each page on Rent.ie."

"We would also recommend they cease any contact with an advertiser if they are suspicious of the advertiser and to contact both us and the Gardai in relation to this," the spokesperson said.

Rent.ie also outlined some of steps it takes to avoid scams:

"Continual monitoring of the site by our content management team to remove any fraudulent listings as we become aware of them."

"Mandatory verification of accounts where a letting ad is being placed"

"Reporting of phishing websites to the hosting sever as soon as we become aware of them"

"Banning persons known to be operating fraudulently from the website."

"We have a blog article on the Daft.ie Blog portion of our site regarding Accommodation Scams, which you can find here."

Rent.ie declares in its terms of service that people use the advertising website at their own risk.

They state: "In no event will we be liable to you for any loss or damage of any kind (except personal injury or death resulting from our negligence) including any lost revenue, profit, or data, or for special, indirect, consequential, incidental or punitive damages howsoever caused."

AirBnB in correspondence with the couple said, “We have neither record of that correspondence on your airbnb account, nor the reservation number that is mentioned in that correspondence, and also the url's in those screenshots are not urls associated with airbnb.

“As such, it appears that you have contacted somebody who has used airbnb's name to attempt to transfer money.

Adding, “On airbnb, all payments are made through our secure system and no bank transfers are ever made. This is strictly within our terms of service for protection of our hosts and guests.”

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