Rental accommodation scams

When renting accommodation, either as your home or when on holiday, you should be absolutely certain that the landlord and property are genuine as there are scammers who will try to trick you out of your money and leave you stranded.

Rental scams

There are a number of different methods that can be used to scam you. Particularly when there is high demand for rental properties it pays to be aware of how these scams work.

  • The scammer uses the photos and details from a genuine rental property and creates a listing with their email and phone number. They will have a reason for not being able to meet you to show you the property such as work commitments or being out of the country. They will ask you to pay the deposit and first month’s rent upfront and may send you additional photos and even a set of fake keys to make it more convincing.
  • The scammer rents a home and then advertises it as available to rent. They show potential tenants around while they live there. They will again ask for funds upfront and may provide you with a set of fake keys but when you arrive to move in the keys don’t work and the scammer has disappeared. They might do this to a number of people.
  • As well as scamming you out of your money they may ask you to submit a copy of your ID or proof of address as part of the application process. They can then use these to carry out further identity fraud.
example
Ross is looking for an apartment to rent and spots one he that likes and that is in his price range. He contacts the advertiser to express his interest and find out more details. The landlord replies and says that the property is still available but there has been a huge amount of interest and it will be gone within days.

Ross asks the landlord to meet him at the property as soon as is convenient as he lives in the area and would like to take a quick look before they proceed. The landlord tells him he can’t meet him as he is working in London for a large financial firm but if he wires him the deposit and first month’s rent he can have the property and he will send him the rental contract and keys by courier that day.

As Ross is so eager to secure the apartment he sends the money that day and emails the landlord a copy of the payment confirmation. He waits for the keys and contracts to arrive but they never do and all communication from the landlord ceases as soon as the money was paid.

Holiday rental fraud

This type of scam targets people booking accommodation for a holiday and can be harder to detect as the property may be in a different country so you don’t have the option to view it beforehand.

  • The scammer copies photos and information from a genuine listing on a property website and creates a fake listing on a holiday booking website or social media. When someone gets in touch about renting the property the scammer will claim that it is in high demand and a deposit must be paid to secure it. After the funds have been transferred communication with the scammer stops or even worse you arrive to find that no such accommodation exists.
  • They may ask you to pay outside the booking website by money transfer, never pay for accommodation in this way as you have no fall-back if things go wrong.
How to spot a scam
  • The rent is too good to be true and is unusually low for the area or time of year.
  • The landlord is out of the country and is unable to meet you.
  • They ask you to make a payment using a non-bank transfer like a wire transfer. You should always pay in a way that will make your money traceable such as cheque or bank draft.
  • The listing and information is full of grammar mistakes and inconsistencies.
  • Ask for an exact address and use Google Maps to verify that it exists and is as advertised.
  • When booking your holiday accommodation make sure to pay through the agent’s secure website.
  • Get the landlord to meet you at the accommodation and take a full tour. Make sure there is a tenant agreement in place and that the keys they give you work in the locks.
  • If you are booking a holiday home and are not comfortable with dealing with an owner directly use a well-known booking agent or website. The deal might not be as good but it will be worth it for the added peace of mind.
  • Renting a property involves large sums of money and can be stressful but take as much time as you can to do as much research as possible.
Who to contact

If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam or fraud and have given someone your bank or card details contact your bank immediately so they can advise you and if necessary put a hold on your account, cancel your cards or carry out additional security when issuing payments and transfers from your account. You should also contact your local Garda station.

If you spot a fake listing on a property or booking website contact the site immediately so it can be taken down.

You can contact us and tell us about any scams you, your family or friends have experienced as building awareness about scams is one of the best ways to prevent them. If you were scammed somewhere else in Europe contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland.

 

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