The number of suspected rental scams reported to gardaí has doubled so far this year compared to last year.

Gardaí have confirmed to RTÉ News that a 100% increase in reports occurred in January and February. 

The confirmation comes after RTÉ News uncovered a number of fraudulent ads on legitimate and respected websites.

One of the largest property websites in the country, daft.ie, says that it encourages "any user that comes in contact with fraud to report the issue to us and also to immediately contact gardaí who in turn can serve us with a data request".

One fake landlord posted an ad on the website, which was confirmed to have been fraudulent.

The scammers then tried to encourage RTÉ to lodge over €2,000 into a Spanish bank account to secure a one bedroom apartment in Rathmines.

The fraudster sent a web link to make the payment. They claimed the payment would be made through Airbnb, but instead sent a fake website, which looked identical to Airbnb. 

In a statement Airbnb said, 'these websites have nothing to do with Airbnb and we work with partners to have them removed when they are brought to our attention.

"Airbnb protects hosts and guests by handling all payment and communications through our secure platform and we provide information to help keep our community safe online".

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda Economic Fraud unit says that more than €80,000 has been defrauded from over 40 people in the first two months of this year as a result of online rent scams.

Gardaí have advised people to make sure to check websites are legitimate and safe, to ensure the property they are renting does exist and also say if something looks to good to be the it probably is.

Housing expert Dr Loran Sirr of Technological University of Dublin says that in "times of high demand and low supply you are going to see an increase in this type of activity.

He said it is not surprising to see fraudsters targeting people who are anxious to find somewhere to live.

He said people will be "more willing than usual to part with money because they are in such a desperate situation to get accommodation".

"The responsibility to ensure to advertisements are not fraudulent should rest with the hosts of the platforms," he said.