Are you in the market for a new apartment? If so, you need to read this post before handing your hard-earned money to anyone.
Rental scams are on the rise, and scam artists have become increasingly devious. If you don’t know what to look for, it can be hard to distinguish a real listing from a fake one. From identity theft to lost funds, the consequences can be far-reaching, to say the least.
Below, I’ll give you some of the most common signs of a rental scam in Canada so you know what to look for. I’ve also included a few tips to help you avoid rental scams online and while shopping for rentals.
How Do Rental Scams Work?
Over the past decade, Canadians are three times more likely to rent where they live instead of purchasing a home, according to RBC’s Thought Leadership group. Rental listing scams have become increasingly common, given the prevalence of online rental shopping.
Today, anybody can use online classified platforms like Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji to browse local listings. While these platforms allow potential renters to quickly research potential rental properties, they can also be exploited by rental scammers who create fraudulent listings.
Renta scams typically have the following purpose:
- To steal your identity (SIN number, name, address, etc.)
- To steal your money (via a crypto/wire transfer or other hard-to-trace equivalents)
Here’s how a rent scam typically goes:
- A scammer creates a duplicate post for a legitimate listing.
- The duplicate post typically offers a low rental rate that often seems “too good to be true.”
- Prospective renters flock to the online listing, often offering their personal information as part of a fake “application.”
- Once the application is “processed,” the scammer will ask for a security deposit (transferred electronically) to secure the space and run off with your money and personal information.
Rental Scams: Red Flags To Watch For
Thankfully, suspicious listings often go hand in hand with red flags that make them easy to identify. Here’s what Canadian renters should look for and how to do basic research to validate listings.
1. No Information On Property Management Company
While it’s not uncommon for landlords to remain anonymous, these individuals hire legitimate property management companies to manage their tenants.
If the landlord wants to remain anonymous, and no property management company is mentioned, the listing was likely made by outright scammers.
Some scammers may set up a fake property management company to give the illusion of trust.
To weed these out, I suggest thoroughly researching the company to see if it’s legitimate. If there are no mentions of the property group on Trustpilot, the BBB, Google reviews online, or even Reddit, it’s probably not a real company.
2. Blurry Photos And Screenshots
Most legitimate landlords post ample pictures of their rental properties. The better the pictures, the easier it is to find good tenants to occupy the units. They may even pay professional photographers to create virtual 3D tours of the unit.
You’ll almost never see this with a scam listing.
The pictures you’ll find on an illegitimate listing are almost always screenshotted or downloaded (at lower quality) from a listing offered by a real property management company.
I’ve even seen somewhere the scammer just took a photo of their computer screen, and you can clearly see the computer pixels.
3. Obscured Address Details
Legitimate rentals should always include the current address of the property. Scam listings are almost always duplicates of real listings. To prevent their post from being reported and flagged by the landlord of the real listing, the scammers often omit the address from the details.
If you find the address is obscured or overtly omitted, I recommend staying away from the listing.
4. “Landlord” Asks For Money Upfront
Other than a one-time application fee (which is a normal part of the rental application process), you shouldn’t be required to pay anything to your landlord until a formal rental agreement has been signed by both you and the landlord.
Scammers may use high-pressure sales tactics, saying, “The market is extremely competitive, so you need to pay upfront fees to reserve your spot.”
This is a major red flag. You shouldn’t send money to anybody before you’ve seen the property in person, spoken to a rental agent, and verified that the listing is legitimate.
Never pay a property management group or landlord until both parties have signed the written lease.
5. There’s A Duplicate Listing With A Different Price
One of the easiest ways to identify a fake rental unit is to check for duplicate listings with a different price. It’s uncommon for the same listing to be posted on multiple platforms. However, the rent prices and property details should be the exact same.
If you notice this, the more expensive post likely represents the real listing, while the cheaper one represents the scam listing.
Often the real listing will be posted on a major rental platform like Zillow or Rentals.ca, while the fake listing will be posted on a more generic classified site like Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji.
6. Rental Rate Seems Too Low
If the listing seems too good to be true or the cost of rent is far below the average market rent for the area, then there’s a chance that it could be a scam. While some landlords offer short-term deals, this isn’t very common and should be an immediate red flag that you should do some further research.
7. “Out Of Town” Landlords
Scammers posting as rental agents may say, “The landlord is out of town, and I’m managing their property for them.” This is a common trick used to dissuade renters from doing more research on the landlord and should be a red flag indicating that you should do just that.
Related Reading: World Financial Group (WFG) Review: Scam or Legit?
Tips To Avoid Rental Scams
To wrap up, here are a few tips to help you avoid getting scammed while looking for your next rental.
Rent Directly From Property Management Companies
I recommend browsing listings directly on property management companies rather than on Facebook and Kijiji. Alternatively, you can use legitimate rental platforms like Zillow or Rentals.ca, which scrutinize listings before they’re posted to help filter out scams.
Never Send Money Before Viewing The Property
Never offer your banking information or send money before viewing a property and signing written leases. Definitely don’t send funds via Western Union or cryptocurrency.
Cross-Reference The Rental Listing
Double-check each potential listing to see if it’s a duplicate post ripping off photos and property details from a legitimate post. If details between the two listings are different, this should be an instant red flag.
Conclusion – What Should You Do If You Encounter A Rental Scam?
If you identify a suspected scam listing, the local police probably won’t be able to help out much. However, you can report suspected fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Your best bet is to avoid the property altogether and search for more legitimate rental listings.
Looking for a taste of small-town living? Keep on reading to see my list of the best small towns in Canada!