Rights & Money

Looking for a Deal on an Apartment Can Cost You Money

Fake rental ads are leading to a lot of people getting fleeced


By Jennifer Hughes

Looking for a new flat or apartment can be stressful enough, but a host of fraudsters have added a new wrinkle and they’re taking advantage of those who aren’t careful.

Fake rental ads have become a problem across the country, and many Canadians have been fooled. Scammers post ads on real-estate listing sites and other sites such as Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist for properties they don’t own and get the prospective renter to pay upfront. Though most listing sites have methods to filter out fake ads, many scammers are still able to post fraudulent ads and get away with it. A common tactic is to copy a legitimate listing from another site and then change the contact information and ask for an enticingly low rent. According to a report by Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit that seeks to advance marketplace trust, renters should be wary of ads, especially if property owners ask for money in advance without a face-to-face meeting.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, scam rentals cost Canadians around $1.4 million between 2016 and 2018. Scams include obtaining payments upfront, forcing renters to buy online directories of properties (that aren’t actually for rent), and deceiving renters into signing up for credit monitoring.

There are warning signs to look out for: the owner is out of town and/or you are unable to see the property in person before making a payment; the price is well below average for the market; and the owner wants to be paid through non-traditional means, such as via a gift card, Western Union, a MoneyGram).

The BBB and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre encourage consumers to go to the property in-person before making any payments, review the lease/contract thoroughly (with legal counsel, if need be), and provide no personal information to an owner before a listing has been verified.

Photo: iStock/ablokhin.