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BBB Scam Alert: Watch Out For Rental Scams This Summer

Scammers will advertise online fake rental listings luring consumers into making bookings and sending money.

With rising costs, low vacancy rates, and high demands for both short and long-term rentals, BBB 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.

“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. Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, and a great location. Spend some time finding out how much other rental properties in the area cost before signing a lease. If it seems too good to be true, it just might be.
  • 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. These forms of payment are impossible to track. Instead, use bank cheques or money orders, or email money transfers, but only when you are certain of the legitimacy of your rental arrangement. Always ask for a rent receipt once payment is made. 
  • 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.
  • A written lease helps prevent fraud and lays out the rights and responsibilities of both parties. Landlords are legally required to use the provincial standard lease form.  Ensure the price and any amenities that should be included as part of your monthly payment are listed in the lease. 
  • Ensure you are dealing with an authorized representative. The written lease is also required to include the names and contact information of the landlord (owner or management company). Ensure that it indicates the person you are dealing with. Ask them to show a picture ID as proof that they are who is named in the document if you have any doubt. You could also ask to see previous utility bills for the residence to confirm they are indeed the landlord.
  • Ask for a second opinion. Don’t be embarrassed to consult with friends, family members or your local BBB, who may be more knowledgeable on the subject if there are doubts or questions.

Anyone who encounters a rental scam, should report it to:

Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker at BBB.org/scamtracker

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501