Submission from David Giles
As we drew to the end of the second semester, I, like seemingly every other college student in Ireland sat before my laptop- desperately refreshing the screen for a room, any room, on Daft.ie for the coming year. Accepting that each email I sent to an agent via the chat box was very unlikely to ever yield so much as a call back, I settled into the acceptance that I had no right to be fussy with this search and that any box room going would be absolutely lovely.
The one, and only email that I heard something back from in my first fortnight of searching was from a pictureless profile of a room going on Highfield Avenue, a location that I really could not turn down. Blinded by desperation, I read in awe as the supposed landlord, who went by the name Greis, told me of a spacious, recently furnished apartment for only €450 a month- one which he would keep on hold for me. I tend to be someone who will stubbornly see the best in another person, even to a fault- but as the saying goes, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. It was only at a much later stage that I would come to realise that Greis did not own the property whatsoever, for all I know he may never have set foot on Highfield Avenue in his life- but was operating an elaborate rental scam scheme with students the target victim.
Naturally, my first step was to ask for a viewing of the room but all of a sudden, Greis was unavailable to meet. Rather than an opportunity to see this dream house materialise, I was bombarded with winding stories and sorrows of his rushed travels back to Paris to visit his sick mother and to save his sister’s belongings as her house flooded but to name two of his troubles. Thinking back, I wanted to pity him, to believe that he had somehow been wrapped up in a series of unfortunate events because this man represented what seemed like my only option. In standing my ground and saying that I would not pay a deposit until I got to see the house myself, I was told how he would have loved to show me the house had it not been for his family emergency and all he wanted was someone he trusted, ‘like you’ to pay up and take the place off his hands.
For every red flag, there were elements of his approach that were so well executed they reinforced my wish to trust in his agenda. When I asked for more pictures, he had them at his disposal. When he sent on a contract for me to review, the contents were legally sound and matched the description of the property he had been describing. Even his knowledge of the area and how far Highfield was from nearby landmarks was spot on.
The straw that broke the camel’s back and his plan’s fatal flaw, however, was a photocopied Irish passport he sent on to ‘prove himself’- a plan which backfired as while the name matched that which he introduced himself as, and the year of birth matched that on his email address, his passport was missing several of the key security features that feature on all Irish platforms. That said, had I not gone about looking for these, the passport could’ve fooled someone slightly more trusting and slightly less sceptical. I finally conceded that I would not be sending my month’s deposit to his kindly supplied Revolut IBAN (yes, another red flag I know).
While entertaining Greis for so long didn’t result in a roof over my head, being able to see through his plans (albeit not initially) saved me quite the sum of money. When I later (a much longer story I won’t go into!) uncovered who the real owner of the house was and told her about my experience, it all made sense to her why several students had arrived to the house in question to be let in, clearly led on by a rental scam very like mine.
What is now an overtold anecdote that my friends and I often laugh about, is on the flip side, a dark insight into the reality of fraudulent schemes that are curated to attract innocent students who know no better than to pay up. Between February 2019 and March 2021, the reporting period in which I was exposed to this rental scam- Gardaí report that over €900,000 in total was stolen across 503 cases in the Dublin region alone. 42% of those subject to these rental frauds were under the age of 25, primarily university students. For those who orchestrate these schemes, to convince a handful of people from a much larger pool of those who they may be talking to, ‘catfishing’ even, at any one time- can be a very lucrative crime.
As the rush for accommodation heats up again, be mindful that those who may seem to be offering you the key to your house of dreams- may never have such a key in their possession in the first instance. Let vigilance accompany your desperation- should it get to that point and if you recognise suspicious behaviour Threshold.ie have great resources to advise you on all-things-accommodation.