Housing Scams: Awareness & Prevention
Housing scams vary but here are three of the more common scenarios:
A scammer poses as a landlord on websites such as Craigslist or Kijiji and says they are out of the country and require a deposit on the rental apartment. Once the money is paid, usually through a money transfer, the new tenant discovers there isn't actually a rental home available, and their money is lost.
A scammer has somehow obtained access to a property or place. They pose as a landlord / property manager and show the victim the property. They then request an immediate down payment to secure the property and inform the victim they can move in at a later date. On the move-in date, the victim arrives only to discover it wasn't actually an available rental home and there have been other victims as well.
A scammer poses as a tenant and responds to internet advertisements for rental apartments. The suspect contacts the landlord by email only. The "tenant" advises they are currently out of the province, but they will send a pay-cheque or bank draft as a deposit to secure the rental. The cheque will be more than the agreed-upon amount, and the "tenant" will direct the landlord to send the excess money to a third party. After depositing the cheque, the victim will be notified by their bank that the cheque they deposited was worthless and the landlord will be responsible to the bank for the money.
Scam prevention tips
- Is the price too good to be true? Check rental rates in the same area. Often fraudsters will try to entice their victims with unbelievably low prices to elicit multiple victims.
- Meet the landlord or property manager in person. Fraudsters will not want to meet their victims in person to avoid being recognized and investigated by police. According to the Ministry of Consumer Services, complaints have been filed against businesses using the email addresses firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
- Tour both the inside and outside of the home to make sure it is a good fit for you. If possible, bring a friend or family member along for the tour.
- Review the lease terms before agreeing to rent a place or paying any money.
- Are they asking for cash only or a cash security deposit? Never pay a rent deposit by cash. Cash is untraceable and can be used immediately.
- Are they asking for money to be wired? Once money is wired, it is extremely difficult to cancel the transaction. Also, money transfers are difficult to trace. Never send payment electronically to an individual you have not met.