Rental scams vary but here are two of the more common scenarios:
A scammer poses as a landlord and says they are out of the country and require a deposit on the rental. Once the money is paid, usually through a money transfer, the new tenant discovers there isn’t actually a rental.
A scammer has somehow obtained access to a property or place. They pose as a landlord / property manager and show the victim the property. They then request an immediate down payment to secure the property and inform the victim they can move in at a later date. On the move-in date, the victim arrives only to discover it wasn’t actually a rental and there have been other victims as well.
Red Flags and Tips
Is the price too good to be true?
Check rental rates in the same area. Often fraudsters will try to entice their victims with low prices to elicit multiple victims.
Are they just communicating with you via email?
Fraudsters will not want to meet their victims in person to avoid being recognized and investigated by police.
Are they asking for cash only or a cash security deposit?
Cash is untraceable and can be used immediately.
Are they asking for money to be wired?
Once money is wired, it is extremely difficult to cancel the transaction. Also, money transfers are difficult to trace.
Have you seen the place and walked around with the property manager or owner?
Never rent a place that you have not been inside and walked around.
Are they asking for personal information such as a SIN, bank account, credit card numbers?
That information is not required to rent a place.
Are they the landowner or property manager?
Only the landowner and property manager have the authority to rent out a place (there are exceptions to this rule however, it is rare).
Ask the neighbours about the landowner and history of the property.
Neighbours are a great source of information regarding the owner and property. They can often confirm who the owner or property manager is.
Hear the tips that Detective Constable Rick Stewart has for preventing rental scams.
don't believe that everyone calling with an exciting promotion or investment opportunity is trustworthy, especially if you do not know them, or their company
don't be fooled by a promise of a valuable prize in return for a purchase; if you have "won" a prize, you don't have to buy anything or purchase any service to "qualify"
never disclose information about your bank, chequing account or credit card - not even a credit card's expiry date
don't be pressured to send money to take advantage of a "deal"
don't be afraid to hang up the telephone
don't purchase or invest without carefully checking the product, the investment and the company
if you are unsure as to the identity of the caller (i.e. person claims to be a distant friend or relative) don't be afraid to hang up and check out the caller's identity; use a known phone number to call back to the friend or relative
never throw your old cheques (business or personal) into the garbage; if you change your bank or close your account for any reason, either shred or tear them into very small pieces to prevent a fraudster from resurrecting your discarded cheques
never record your PIN on the back of your bank (ATM) card or loan your card / PIN to someone else
never enter your PIN into an Automated Teller Machine or handheld pin pad when someone is in a position to see what you type