If you're actively looking for a place to rent, the housing crisis isn't your only concern – get ready to add this to your list of worries.

It has come to the attention of Gardaí that prospective tenants have been receiving unsolicited emails from an individual impersonating an officer.

The individual claims to be "Inspector Andrew Cullen" of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.

However, the Gardaí have warned that no such member exists on their force.

The emails are not official and appear to be a part of a rental scam to deceive people into handing over deposits on properties.

If you have any concerns about the unsolicited emails or correspondence received from Garda Síochána – do not sit in silence.

Contact your local Garda station to verify the authenticity of any interactions.

Additionally, An Garda Síochána will NEVER ask you for any personal or banking information through email or over the phone.

So if you are being asked for this info, alarm bells should be ringing.

The Garda have issued guidelines that common rental scams fall into:

1. The scammer claims to be out of the country and can’t show you the property and requests a deposit.

2.  The scammer is living at the property and shows a number of people around, gets a deposit from several people and disappears with the money. 

3.  The transaction appears normal until the renter finds that the keys don’t work and the landlord has disappeared.

Therefore people need to establish that the house exists and that is available for rent and the identity of landlord /agent & is he/she authorised to rent the property.

To ensure that you are not being fleeced for a non-existent property, the Gardaí recommend doing business with established bon-fide rental agencies.

They always advise to meet a prospective landlord in the accommodation to be rented, ask for identification, a driver’s licence or photo identification of landlord or letting agent, etc – (Take a photo of the document on your phone).

When it comes to coughing up the deposit, make sure it's paid to the landlord and nobody else, unless they can prove their authority to be able to take the payment on behalf of the landlord.

Now instead of splashing out the cash for that deposit, use cheques or bank drafts to pay it and keep copies of receipts of payments and any correspondence.

And finally, ensure keys fit, open door lock and sign a rental contract, prior to payment of deposit.

They've also cautioned that if the rent sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

If you believe you've been a victim of such fraud, the Gardaí ask that you report the incident to your local station.

If you live outside of Ireland, report it to your local police station.

It's sad that people prey on vulnerable people given our housing crisis, but it's vital that you educate yourself, so that you don't get caught out.