North Cork garda warns that scam is ‘likely to surface’ again as pressure mounts on students to find accommodation
WITH students gearing up for a return to third-level campuses over the coming weeks, Gardaí are warning people not to be duped out of their hard-earned cash through a rental scam.
The caution has come after a north Cork-based community Garda recalled a recent incident in which a lady seeking to rent an apartment in Cork city for a student was conned out of €1,000 by an unscrupulous scammer operating from abroad.
Fermoy-based Sgt John Kelly said that was not the first time this kind of incident has happened – and that Gardaí fear it may well not be that last.
“The rental market out there is extremely competitive at the moment and, as a direct result of this, scammers are using it to their advantage,” said Sgt Kelly.
He explained that, in this particular instance, the lady in question had seen an advertisement for an apartment in the city on social media, contacted the person responsible online, gave her details and paid over €1,000 as a deposit.
“It was only after this that she realised the money had been paid into a French bank account and that the person she had paid it to was based in France,” said Sgt Kelly.
“She subsequently researched the property and discovered it was up for sale. She then contacted the property agent, who told her the apartment had already been sold and they knew nothing about any rental agreement. Nor had they any contact with the person in France that she had paid over the deposit to,” said Sgt Kelly.
He said it was very easy for a fraudster to simply lift a picture and details from a legitimate social-media page or property website site and put it on their own page.
Sgt Kelly said that with the imminent return of third-level institutions there will be a scramble for accommodation around Cork city, and it was likely this kind of scam will be tried again.
“We saw this kind of thing happen in past years, and I have no doubt but that it will surface again, particularly with pressure already mounting for those starting off in college to find accommodation,” said Sgt Kelly.
He said that for people not to get duped out of their hard-earned cash, they should carry out a thorough background check of any advert they may see on social media before making any commitment.
“The key here is to exercise due diligence. Make sure the apartment actually exists, that it is available to rent and the person you are paying a deposit over to actually owns it,” said Sgt Kelly.
“One of the clear signs that it might well be a scam is if the person purporting to rent a premises says they are living overseas and cannot meet up face-to-face to show you the property.
“This is something that we have seen time and time again.
“The key here is to exercise due diligence to ensure you do not fall victim to a scam,” he added.