Ever since the dawn of the internet, there have been people looking to profit off of it – some in legitimate ways and others…not so much.
Online scams are everywhere. One of the more popular scams in the real estate world are fraudulent rental ads. The basics usually go something like this:
A home/apartment/cottage/etc. is offered at an unbelievably low rental rate, typically hundreds of dollars less than what similar properties are renting for – what a steal! When the would-be renter contacts the “owner/landlord,” there is usually some pressure and urgency from the “owner” to have money send quickly via e-transfer ASAP in order to secure this fantastic deal. Once the money is sent, the new renter quickly finds out that they’re out some money AND without the property they thought they had secured. These properties for rent are usually taken from a legitimate listing from places like Realtor.ca, or Realtor’s own websites, and the fraudulent ads are created and posted on various websites – Craigslist and Kijiji are popular ones.
The bad news: as diligent as we are as Realtors, it’s still nearly impossible to catch every one of these ads. The GOOD news: there are many ways to protect yourself from these scams!
1. DON’T SEND MONEY TO STRANGERS
This one should be common sense, but some of these scammers are very convincing, or you may be in a situation where there’s some pressure to find a place quickly so you jump at this opportunity without taking a moment to think it through. Any professional renting a property likely will not demand that you send a deposit right away, and then get aggressive and even more pushy when you ask more questions or say that you would like to view the property. These signs should be red flags, which leads us to the next tip…
2. Trust your instincts
If it seems fishy, it probably is. If the phone number (should one be provided) is from a far away country/state/province, it may be a sign. Again, a professional Realtor or a seasoned landlord would not find it an odd request for you to to have more questions or want to view the property. If they become defensive or evasive, or push even harder to have money sent, this should set off alarm bells.
3. Search the address
This is good practice whether you are renting or looking at purchasing. A quick Google search will likely turn up if there’s ever been a crime at the location (this may change some people’s decision of if they would want to rent/buy a specific home), as well as show results for any other listings for the property. While occasionally a property may be offered for both lease or sale, if you are finding listings from legitimate sources (like Realtor.ca, remax.ca, etc) where the house is for sale and then finding rental ads on completely different sources, this is a good indicator that it may be a rental scam.
4. Ask a Realtor
If you’re still not sure – ASK A REALTOR. We are happy to help, and even happier that it’s brought to our attention by potential renters that one of our listings is being used to run a scam. A Realtor should be able to help you determine if a shady rental situation is what it seems. Many people don’t realize that Realtors can even work with you to help you find a rental in the first place, taking much of the stress off you and having a professional looking out for your interests.
5. Report it
If you do come across a rental ad that you’re confident is a scam, report it! Contact the Realtor who has the REAL listing (if there is one involved). Flag it on the websites where it’s posted (Craigslist and Kijiji make it very easy to report scams). If you haven’t sent any money, it can also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you did send money across and realized afterwards that it was a scam, contact your local police ASAP, and you can also try contacting your bank to see if the payment can be stopped.
Do you have questions about renting, or rental scams? Get in touch with us! Remember, if it seems too good to be true…it probably is.