You want a new apartment. You give notice. You hunt. You find. You put down your deposit. But then, the emails stop. The keys don’t arrive. The apartment is occupied by someone else.
You’ve been scammed. The first thing you need to do is contact the police.
Rental scams are a crime of opportunity. With record low vacancy rates across Canada, there is a huge demand for apartments, and it outweighs supply. Beyond that, affordable rentals become even more sparse. Renters who are under tight budgets and short timelines are very vulnerable – but with scams becoming more sophisticated, it’s wise for all renters to act cautiously.
Scammers are looking for an easy target. When your budget is tight and you’re offered a good deal it can seem like a windfall. That’s when you’ve got to be most careful – stop and ask yourself, “Is this too good to be true?” Is it a large family apartment that comes in well under budget? Is it an upscale property that seems to be priced too low? Don’t think this is a limited problem – it’s happening across the country, from big city centres to small towns.
How do you avoid rental scams?
Look for red flags. If you’re conducting your search online, be wary of anything that seems under market value. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Rental scams have to be appealing to attract a lot of interest.
Be especially cautious if the person renting the apartment doesn’t want to show you the property or wants to conduct the entire transaction online, without meeting.
Don’t ever wire money to a person you’ve never met for an apartment you’ve never seen.
Don’t let anyone rush you into a decision.
If you’re searching for an apartment remotely, try to find a friend that can visit the apartment for you. You may even want to consider using an agent.
You want to go see the property, meet the landlord or property management and look at the actual property that is being rented. The property manager will meet you in the rental office – be leery of anyone who refuses to use the rental office for the paperwork.
If you are interested, fill out the paperwork and make sure to use a cheque, credit card or PayPal. These are traceable and scammers prefer to leave no trail.
If you have to pay a deposit of cash, do not hand over cash without a receipt, and be cautious if you’re asked to wire money. Wire transfers are usually a big, red flag.
To view a recent report on CBC click here.