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As colleges reopen, be on the lookout for rental scams

Always pay in a way that will make your money traceable – such as by cheque, bank draft or credit card

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Rental scams are common this time of year – as students moving home to attend college are often targetted by scammers. One of the main rental scams is where the scammer copies genuinely advertised rental accommodation – and then re-advertises that accommodation with their own email or phone number.

What are the common rental scams?

They often say they’re out of the country and so unable to show you the property – but they still request a deposit. Another common scam is where the fraudster is living at the property, shows a number of people around, gets a deposit from several people – and then disappears with the money. You often don’t realise you’ve been scammed until you arrive at the property to find that the keys don't work, that someone else is living there and that the 'landlord' has disappeared.

How do I avoid these scams?

Establish that the house exists and is genuinely available for rent. You could use Google Maps to verify the existence or address of a property. Visit the property. A good way to confirm whether or not a property is genuinely for rent is to check if the tenancy is registered with the Residential Tenancies Board ( rtb.ie). Not all landlords are registered with the RTB but you are typically better dealing with one who is. Confirm the identity of the landlord or agent and be sure that he or she is authorised to rent the property. Only deal with recognised and reputable letting agencies – if dealing with an agent. Be suspicious if the rent advertised for a particular property is only a fraction of the rent due on other similar properties in the area. Never agree to rent a property through a website or social media. Be wary of social media advertisements or where a person letting the property will only communicate via Messenger or WhatsApp. Avoid unsolicited offers of accommodation or offers from a person who appears to be based in another country – particularly if the premises is advertised with a sense of urgency or as a “one-time offer”. Check the keys provided by a landlord work when you visit the property.

What’s the safest way to pay a deposit? 

When paying a deposit or month's rent in advance, never pay in cash or iTunes gift cards, never pay into cryptocurrency wallets or a random PayPal address – and never wire money through the likes of Western Union. Instead always pay in a way that will make your money traceable – such as by cheque, bank draft or credit card.

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