With rising costs, low vacancy rates, and high demands for both short and long-term rentals, the Better Business Bureau anticipates that rental scams will be on the rise this summer.
“Students are looking to find their first homes after graduating from school, add that on to the pressure of families looking for vacation rentals, and this is the perfect storm for a scam artist looking to cash in on,” explained Simone Lis, President and CEO of BBB Serving Mainland BC.
Scammers will advertise online fake rental listings luring consumers into making bookings and sending money. Once the renters send payment to secure the listing, they often find out that the property doesn’t exist, is unavailable for rent, or isn’t the scammer’s property to list in the first place.
BBB has also noticed a significant increase in the average consumer losses from rental scams this year. Since January 2022, Canadian reports to the BBB had an average loss of $1,230, which is a 160% increase compared to the same period last year.
One BC student shared her experience with BBB last summer, stating, “I found a two-bedroom apartment on Craigslist for $1,475 a month. It seemed to be a great deal, so I contacted the landlord. He told me that he had moved to Spain due to work reasons. Therefore, the apartment was vacant, and I could move in anytime. He added that he had never rented this apartment before and wanted to find a responsible tenant to take good care of it. He told me he was using a global rental company to find the tenant and provided me with a link to the company. Since the company’s policy required me to transfer a deposit before seeing the house, I sent them $3,000 using the link he provided. At first, I could talk with the customer service on the website. But now, I can’t reach them anymore. I tried to find the legitimate founder of the company, only to learn the company had been closed and it was probably a scam.”
Some BBB tips to keep in mind when looking for a rental property:
Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true.
Search online for similar properties. Do a quick search for the listing, listed email address, or phone number.
If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.
See the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen.
If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
Never pay with cash, wire transfer or hard-to-trace equivalents such as Moneygram or Bitcoin.
Don’t provide confidential info that can be used for identity theft. Avoid handing over confidential information such as your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or bank information to the wrong hands. A landlord can check your credit history with just your full name, current address and birth date.