A rental scam circulating in the province has fraudsters advertising properties online for rent that they do not own, using information and photos from legitimate real estate listings.
It is suspected that the scam artist is hoping to get money from victims by collecting damage deposits on properties that are not actually available for rent.
The warning is coming from the Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB), the real estate boards in New Brunswick, various local police forces and the RCMP. FCNB has posted previous alerts regarding the scam.
“We are aware of the rental scam through popular listing sites where rentals are posted that include photos and descriptions scraped from legitimate real estate sites,” said Jamie Ryan, CEO from the New Brunswick Real Estate Association. “We are working closely with the local real estate boards as well as the commission to promote awareness and protect the public.”
This scam has been active in the province for at least a year and has taken place in several locations throughout the province and through different websites. Recent complaints and posts circulating on social media indicate that this activity is continuing.
Victims have reported responding to ads for apartments or rooms for rent and being asked to pay hundreds of dollars in cash to cover the first month’s rent and damage deposits, before discovering the rental properties were not the property of the scam artist.
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 use 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 have never met, or only met online.
- Before signing a rental agreement and paying a damage deposit, insist on seeing the property. 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 sites such as Kijiji, it is always buyer beware. When using sites such as Realtor, 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 the victim of, a rental fraud scam, contact the police.
FCNB has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It 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.