The Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB) is advising New Brunswickers – and particularly university students -- to use caution when responding to online advertisements for housing rentals.
Fraudsters are advertising properties they do not own for rent, often on online platforms, using information and photos from legitimate real estate listings. Posing as landlords, they ask those responding to their ads to pay hundreds of dollars in cash to cover the first month’s rent and damage deposits. Victims later discover the rental properties do not belong to the scam artist and their deposit is gone.
The scam is reportedly on the rise in Canada as rents, home prices and inflation surge in today’s highly competitive real estate market. Scammers are cashing in on renters who need to act quickly for fear of missing out.
Some of the red flags identified in rental scams are:
- No ability for the potential renter to see the property in person before providing a deposit.
- Asking the renter to e-transfer a deposit, or meet at a location other than the property, to provide a deposit.
- Asking the potential renter to ignore the for-sale signs on the property.
- Spelling errors and typos in the ads.
- Pressure to act quickly.
New Brunswickers are encouraged to consider the following best practices before paying money to secure a rental property:
- Be aware of the red flags of fraud.
- Never send money to someone you’ve never met, or only met online.
- Before signing a rental agreement and paying a damage deposit, insist on seeing the property in person. If you are moving from out of province, ask someone you know locally to look at the property for you.
- Do a reverse image search to determine if the images are shared on other websites.
If there is a for-sale sign on the property, contact the listing realtor to inquire if the owner is also seeking to rent the property.
If you are entering a rent-to-own situation, seek legal advice before signing a contract.
When purchasing or negotiating on resale sites such as Kijiji, it is always buyer beware. When using sites such as Realtor.ca, you are dealing with licensed agents. Learn more about how licensing can protect you.