The Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB) is advising New Brunswickers to use caution when responding to online advertisements for housing rentals, following ongoing reports that scam artists are targeting renters.
This scam involves fraudsters advertising properties they do not own for rent, often on online platforms, using information and photos from legitimate real estate listings. Victims have reported that after responding to these ads, they have been asked to pay hundreds of dollars in cash to cover the first month’s rent and damage deposits, before discovering the rental properties do not belong to the scam artist. In one case, the victims arrived at the supposed rental location with their moving truck only to find out that they had lost their money and did not have a place to live.
This scam has been active in the province for at least a year, and has occurred throughout New Brunswick, through several different websites. Warnings have been issued by the commission, as well as New Brunswick real estate boards, local police departments and the RCMP since late 2019.
Mitch McLean, Registrar of the New Brunswick Real Estate Association, said his organization has been working closely with local real estate boards to combat this rental scam.
“Progress has been made to reduce the risk of loss to members of the public by identifying and removing rental ads using pictures taken from actual real estate listing sites, which are currently being used as part of these scams,” said McLean. “Public awareness and education on how to spot these scams remains paramount in our pursuit to eliminate the risk of financial loss.”
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.
“At FCNB, we share information on the red flags of fraud and information about current scams circulating in the province in an effort to help New Brunswickers protect themselves and their communities,” said Alaina Nicholson, Director of Consumer Affairs. “While scams change and adapt, the red flags tend to be common across different types of scams. The more people can recognize the red flags, think critically about offers and be vigilant, the fewer people will end up being scammed.”
If you suspect that you have been targeted by, or are the victim of a rental fraud scam, contact the police.
FCNB is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available at www.fcnb.ca.