How to Spot a Rental Scam

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Apartment hunting can be really tough. High prices and low inventory mean that the process is even more difficult and unpleasant. On top of that, most people are looking for units on sites like Craigslist or Kijiji where internet anonymity has become a problem. Beware of rental scams which are popping up all over the internet. The Better Business Bureau warns that students are especially susceptible to these scams as they search for low-priced accommodation in the back-to-school season.

Rental scams have been around for a long time. Usually they involve an email exchange in which the would-be landlord requests a security deposit to hold the rental before a face-to-face meeting has occurred. High competition creates a sense of urgency and sometimes causes people to act against their better judgment. Before you give a potential landlord any cash, ask yourself: Am I being scammed?

Unsure? Let’s break it down:

If the landlord lives in another country and wants you to wire them money sight-unseen, it’s a scam.

This is a big one. Anonymous rent scammers tend to want to stay that way. The majority of scams occur when a security deposit is made (either via eTransfer or wired directly) before the unit has been viewed. Be suspicious of any landlord that claims to be ‘out of town’ or shares an elaborate backstory about his/her absence. Any excuse given by a landlord to avoid viewing the unit is suspicious. It is always best to meet the landlord in person and view the suite before renting.  

If the apartment you are looking at is beautifully furnished, centrally located and significantly cheaper than comparable units, it’s probably a scam.

Do your own research and get a sense for the general market price for accommodations in your area. Many rental scams are ‘too good to be true’.

For example, if you are looking for a 2-bedroom apartment in Yaletown and find a modern suite that looks like it was ripped out of a West Elm catalog going for $1000/month, be skeptical. When similar units are renting for more than double, you might have found a scam.

If the landlord seems overly eager to rent to you or is pressuring you to make a deposit, it’s probably a scam.

Be wary of any landlord that seems overly eager to rent to you or to secure the rental quickly. Never wire money sight-unseen to secure a rental.

If the landlord wants your SIN, bank account information and/or your credit card number it’s probably a scam.

Your SIN, bank numbers, and credit card numbers are not required to secure a rental. Be suspicious of anyone online who asks you for your personal information.

A healthy amount of skepticism is necessary when making deals online. If you are providing a security deposit in cash, be sure to get a receipt. A proper tenancy agreement signed by both parties is a good way to ensure that the rental is legitimate. Read more about the RCMP’s tips on avoiding rental scams in BC.

If you want to increase knowledge and confidence in avoiding rental scams, RentSmart Online offers further information and tips on avoiding this type of fraud. The course also covers a variety of information on how to achieve healthy tenancies. Take the course today!

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