Rental Housing Frauds on the Rise – Beware and Make Smart Choices

Hot on the heels of an advisory by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), we would like to warn you about the increasing rate of rental housing frauds in the country. Scamsters are taking tenants for a ride, often cleverly disguising themselves as bona fide landlords. Don’t be too worried though – there are quite a few ways to figure out whether or not the rental offer is a genuine one.

Here are the warning signs that FRPO wants you to consider:

Price is unbelievably low – It is always a good idea to verify the going price for rental properties in the particular area before putting down your hard-earned money. While you can expect rental homes in Edmonton to be very competitive, anything significantly less than the market value should raise a red flag.

Email communication only – Understandably, most fraudsters will like to keep their identity under wraps, preferring to communicate with you only via email. If they strongly insist on not meeting you in person, you may want to pause and rethink things.

Cash deposit only – Scamsters typically ask for payment in cash; this is because paper currency is hard to trace and makes the job of investigating the scamster’s location and details difficult.

Asking for money to be wired – It is difficult to both trace money transfers and cancel transactions. Wiring money to a stranger posing as a landlord is ill-advised.

What should you do?

To stay on the safe side, you can take some precautions in your dealings with landlords and in the process of renting apartments in Calgary or Edmonton.

Scan attachments – There are reports of email scams by landlords, wherein unsuspecting renters are emailed attachments of home photos and/or other details. These attachments contain a virus that fools your web browser into thinking you are visiting a legitimate site, when in fact it is the scamming landlord’s site. The best defense is to install quality anti-virus software and scan all attachments from prospective landlords before opening them.

See the place: Make sure you visit the rental home in question before providing any personal or financial details to the landlord, even if he/she insists it’s for a form/application.

Enquire with neighbors: FRPO recommends that you talk to neighbors about the property and the landlord as a way of validating everything you have gathered from your interactions with the landlord. Neighbors can also be crucial in helping you verify if the landlord is indeed who he says he is (see below).

Ensure that the landlord or property manager is who he claims to be: Don’t be fooled by the ‘middleman scam’. In this case, the ‘landlord’ tells you that the owner of the apartment/house is overseas, sick or unavailable, and that he has been requested to fill in for the individual. Basically, you never know or come in contact with the real property owner and only deal with the so-called friend. This scam is more common than you may imagine – don’t fall for it!

What to do when you’ve been scammed

If a scamsters has got the better of you, don’t hesitate to report the matter to the

– Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
– Your local RCMP Detachment or police service
– Internet Fraud Complaint Center