6 Ways to Avoid Being the Victim of a Rental Scam
So, you’ve found the perfect rental unit in your desired location. It has all of the amenities that you’re looking for, and then some…but could this sweet deal be too good to be true?
Most scammers will create fraudulent classified ads for available rental units in areas that are in high demand. These ads are generally posted with a desirable asking price to ensure that those actively searching for a property will be interested in the listing. Once a person has inquired about the listing, the scammers will then send out a rental questionnaire requesting personal information such as contact information, mailing address, occupation and income.
In several instances, the property owner will tell you that they are working out of the country, but are keeping their home as an investment property. They will sell you convincing stories about how their family still lives in the area, and that they’re planning to move back in the next five years to retire in the area, start a family…etc. Because they are out of the country, they will tell you that you can get access to the unit by having the keys mailed to you…the only catch is that they require a deposit prior to you viewing the listing. They will send you a fake office address where you can send the funds, and then the keys are never sent.
It is so important to do your research and view a listing prior to making any financial decisions.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre suggests these six tips when searching for a rental unit.
1. Always schedule a showing, and view the property. Following your initial conversations with the landlord/homeowner, be sure to schedule a showing and view the property before making any decisions or signing an agreement.
2. Do not provide a deposit, without first viewing the listing. If anyone tries to convince you to provide a deposit prior to viewing the property, it is very likely that you’re dealing with a scammer. Visit the Landlord and Tenant Board for a full list of the rights that you have as a tenant, and the expectations that you should have of your landlord. Providing a hefty payment prior to viewing the listing won’t be one of them.
3. Bring a friend or loved one with you to your showing. It is always best to have someone with you when meeting a stranger for a home showing. If you get a bad gut feeling about the situation, there will be someone with you to help get you out of it.
4. Trust your gut. If the listing price seems too good to be true, it likely is. Always be sure to do your research, comparing the average listing prices with the quality of the listings that you’re viewing online. For example, if you’re viewing a two-bedroom waterfront condo valued at $2,500/month in downtown Barrie, the likelihood of it being a scam is low, as the prices are comparable to others on the market, however, if that same listing is listed at $1,000/month, you might begin to wonder if the listing is legitimate.
Padmapper is a great tool to view the average rental prices in high-demand Canadian cities. As can be seen, in August 2017, the top three cities with the highest average prices for a one-bedroom rental include (in order): 1. Vancouver, BC at $1,990, 2. Toronto, ON at $1,850/month, and 3. Barrie, ON at $1,210/month.
Follow PadMapper’s blog for monthly statistics on Canadian Rental prices https://blog.padmapper.com/2017/08/15/august-2017-canadian-rent-report/
5. Watch for photo quality. Several brokerages post their listings on external websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji. If the property is marketed by a brokerage, all trusted Realtors® will provide contact information for the listing agent, brokerage information, and a link to their website on the listing. If the photos posted for the listing look professional, but do not have the credibility of a real estate brokerage, it is very likely that they’ve been pulled from a brokerage’s website. Most rental photos are taken by the homeowners/landlord with a cell phone, and don’t look staged unless listed on a Brokerage’s website.
6. Enlist the help of a Realtor® or Property Manager. Despite popular belief, several Brokerages list rental properties. When you list a rental through a brokerage, they screen potential renters, check their credit rating, and ensuring that both parties are fairly accommodated. The Realtor® will assist both parties with any inquiries that they might have during the process, as well as provide the potential tenant with a rental agreement, a contract that would protect both parties from any damages.
What to do if you’re the victim of a scam
Step 1: Gather all information about the fraud. This includes documents, receipts, copies of emails and/or text messages.
Step 2: Report the incident to your local law enforcement. This ensures that police in your jurisdiction are aware of what scams are targeting their residents and businesses. Keep a log of all your calls and record all file or occurrence numbers.
Step 3: Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) toll free at 1-888-495-8501, or through the Fraud Reporting System (FRS).
Step 4: Report the incident to the financial institution where the money was sent (e.g., money service business such as Western Union or MoneyGram, bank, credit union, credit card company, or internet payment service provider).
Step 5: If the fraud took place online through Facebook, eBay, an online classified ad service such as Kijiji, be sure to report the incident directly to the website. These details can be found under “report abuse” or “report an ad.”
How to protect yourself…and others
1. Beware of Recovery Scams. Victims of fraud are often targeted a second or third time with the promise of recovering money previously lost. Always do your due diligence and never send money to recover money.
2. Stay current. Advise the CAFC, financial institutions and law enforcement of any updates.
3. Be pro-active. Educate family, friends, neighbours and co-workers en-masse marketing frauds. You may prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
For more information on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, please visit: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm
For more information on the Landlord and Tenant Board, and to learn your rights visit: http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb/
Source: The Faris Team