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Con artists target students in rent scam

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Claire Varini, 20, a student studying in Trinity College, Dublin,

Claire Varini, 20, a student studying in Trinity College, Dublin,

Claire Varini, 20, a student studying in Trinity College, Dublin,

CON artists posing as landlords are targeting vulnerable students as they search for accommodation in the capital.

International students have been cheated out of thousands of euro in a scam where a landlord claims to be letting an apartment only for the students to discover the property is already occupied and owned by somebody else.

Similar scams have been discovered in Cork and Galway. According to the Union of Students in Ireland, hundreds of Dublin students who started college two weeks ago are still unable to find accommodation, with many forced to sleep on couches or stay with relatives.

Many students are so desperate for accommodation that they are left with no option but to place deposits on properties as soon as they become available.

One student told the Irish Independent how two people involved in the scam in Dublin tried to extort money from her after she replied to an advert on Facebook.

Claire Varini (20), from Belfast, is studying French and Film in Trinity College.

"I saw an apartment on Facebook and it looked really, really good.

"It had double rooms, was very central and it was €500 per month.

"I asked if the room would still be there by the end of the week and she (the agent)said she didn't know because sometimes people sign leases without coming to view."

This made Claire suspicious and after asking some challenging questions, she was told she was not speaking to the landlord but a woman acting on his behalf.

She was then given a UK-based phone number for the landlord, but he refused to take her calls. Both the agent and the landlord refused to speak to the Irish Independent when contacted.

Claire called to the apartment with her boyfriend to see if it was available for viewing, but discovered that there was already a long-term occupant at the property who was reluctant to answer the door.

"She said that she did not want to answer because she had so many people coming asking her the same thing. People had come to her after spending over €700 on deposits. They came with suitcases and everything."

Shortage

Gardai said that they are investigating a number of incidents of alleged fraud against students in Dublin.

They advised students to always view a property before passing any money over to any person alleging to be the owner of the property.

However, many of those targeted were international students who would not have been able to view the property in advance.

Union of Students in Ireland Welfare Officer Greg O'Donoghue said that the problem is not being helped by Dublin's housing shortage.

Irish Independent