You're searching for your next apartment in Toronto and you find a gorgeous unit with a view for about half the rent you expected to pay. In fact, this kind of thing happens all the time: It's a rental scam, and despite warnings out there, renters keep falling for them.
Recently, a Torontonian found an awesome apartment that would normally go for up to $2,000 listed at just $800. The landlord was out of town. He promised to send her the keys once he received the deposit. She sent a check in the mail for $1,400. The keys never came.
It happens all across Canada. A few years back, an apartment hunter in Victoria emailed about a great unit overlooking the water, at just $450 a month. The owner/landlord was on a religious mission in Nigeria and couldn't meet in person to show the apartment. A wire transfer was all it would take, and the keys would be in the mail.
Sometimes the scammers are in Africa. Others are based in Eastern Europe or Asia. The location of the scammer doesn't matter, nor does the story of their absence from town, but tenants need to constantly stay on their toes to avoid being scammed.
Want to protect yourself from a rental scam? Here are the top 10 tips
1Agree to meet in person. After you email the landlord, set up a meeting to view the apartment together and in person. This way you can make sure the apartment exists and the landlord has access to it.
2Hand over the cash when you get the keys. Not before.
3Never fill out an online application before meeting the landlord. Don't give out personal information until you know exactly who you're giving it to, and for what purpose.
4The Toronto rental market is a hot one. Good landlords won't rent to just anyone without meeting them. If the email reply says you can move in right away without an interview/meeting, be wary.
5Ask for a phone number. Talk to the landlord in person.
6If the landlord is affiliated with a property management company, search for the company's phone number on your own and ask if someone by that name works there. Then, ask to speak to them directly to ensure the name matches the person on the phone.
7Work with a rental broker or a realtor. More and more, realtors in the GTA and across North America are getting into the rental game. Working with a reputable broker or realtor will help ensure you won't be scammed by a fake landlord.
8Analyze the rental ad and first email from the landlord. Do the cross streets in the ad not match? Are the grammar and spelling especially bad? While it's normal that your landlord might not speak perfect English, this should raise suspicions that the email might be coming from overseas.
9Be cautious if the person emailing you flaunts his or her title, such as being employed by the United Nations, the government, or a reverend, priest or something similar. Also put your guard up if they use overly formal language, such as calling you Sir or Madam.
10If the landlord offers to send you money first for any reason, step away. It may be a scammer trying to get information on your bank accounts, which they can use to steal from you.
Rental scams have been going on since apartment listings went online. The scams can vary slightly, but the protective actions you can take to avoid being scammed are simple and can save you a ton of hassle and money.
Think you've been victimized by a rental scam? Here's what to do:
Report the scam immediately to the police and give as much information as possible. They might be able to trace the scammer and involve international police to make an arrest.
Now call your bank right away. There's a chance that they can stop a money transfer, or close any accounts that might be accessed by the scammer.
Notify us at TorontoRentals.com. We'll remove the ad if it's fraudulent and protect other tenants.