One problem you may encounter while searching for an apartment is the rental scam. Most rental scams follow the same basic pattern: a con artist finds a property, pretends to be the owner, advertises it, communicates with the potential renter (never face-to-face), and makes off with a cash or wire transfer deposit. Then when you show up, the landlord has never heard of you!
Protect Yourself from Fraud
Research the Address
Google the address and see if it is advertised or listed on a company website. If the ad posting doesn’t mention that company’s name, or the details from the advertisement and the company don’t match, you should question it. You may even find search results of other people being scammed at the same address.
Never Send Cash or Transfer Money
Be suspicious if you are asked for cash or a wire transfer, particularly before you have seen the place in person.
Double-Check the Price
Many con artists will advertise another person’s apartment at a much lower price to entice you to act now. Research other rentals in the area, and that building in particular, to see if the rates are generally much higher.
Take Your Time
Legitimate property managers ask questions, screen potential residents, and allow you to take your time to make a decision. If your contact seems pushy or is trying to make you close the deal immediately, ask for more time. If they seem to get angry or try to pressure you, that’s cause for concern.
Create a Paper Trail
Ask for copies of everything: the application, the lease, receipts, money orders, etc. If your contact refuses to give you an application or lease, or says you have to send money first, it is likely a scam.
Ask a Lot of Questions
Questions about the property and leasing process can throw off a scam artist. Ask about the neighbourhood, the maintenance process, contacting the landlord, references, certification, and insurance. If you seem too informed, the con artist may decide you are not worth the effort!
Meet in Person
Most con artists will try to do everything electronically. Always meet in person at a real office. If you are renting remotely in another town, try to get a friend or family member to meet them in person at the apartment. Skyline Living always wants to meet its prospective residents in person at the building – after all, our residents are also our neighbours!
Trust Your Gut
Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! If something seems off, investigate further or just walk away.
Reporting a Scam
If you think you’re being scammed, report the details (including copies of any correspondence) to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
You can also forward the details to the landlord of the address you’re looking to rent. Though they can’t always help, they may be able to have fraudulent advertising taken down or keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour at the building itself.