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Gardai in warning over WhatsApp rent scam

The gang has been posing as Daft.ie staff and contacting landlords on WhatsApp
The gang has been posing as Daft.ie staff and contacting landlords on WhatsApp

Gardai are investigating an Eastern European gang taking advantage of Ireland's housing crisis by preying on people searching for rented accommodation.

It comes after Daft.ie reported a number of incidents where the gang gained access to adverts on its website and changed them in an attempt to extort money from customers.

The gang is using the WhatsApp smartphone app to access adverts on the site as part of an elaborate scam.

It represents a major shift away from traditional online phishing scams where con artists use emails to lure targets into giving up confidential information such as passwords.

Using the phone numbers in adverts on the website, the gang has been posing as Daft.ie staff and contacting landlords on WhatsApp.

Landlords are then sent a link to a website using an old Daft.ie logo and asked to enter personal details, including their password. These details are then used to access adverts and change the contact details.Interested parties are specifically told not to email landlords but to call instead using the foreign phone numbers provided.

All the numbers have been linked to phones in Germany and the UK.

Daft.ie said it was removing any of these numbers from its site and had been liaising with gardai and WhatsApp to resolve the issue.

A spokesperson said there were a number of signs that people should be wary of, including foreign-based landlords and poorly written ads.

"They are preying on the fact that the market is so tight that people are desperate," the spokesperson said.

"They might include bills in the rent. If it seems too good to be true it probably is."

Wayne O'Connor Sunday Independent