Beware of Rental Scams!
"Chatham-Kent police are warning about a scam that tricks renters into making a deposit on a property that is not actually for rent.
Const. Renee Cowell, public information officer, said the service has already been contacted four times this year regarding this type of rental scam.
She said people are enticed by an attractive photo of a property for rent at an attractive price in a sought-after neighbourhood.
These ads will typically be posted on social media and classifieds websites such as Kijiji, Craigslist or Prop2Go.
“What I see happening is people see these ads p
osted and, when they make contact, they’re pressured into making a deposit to hold the property,” Cowell said.
She said whoever is advertising the property will never meet in person, but there is still pressure to make a down payment.
“That seems to be where people are losing their money,” Cowell said.
Janice Wieringa, executive officer with the Chatham-Kent Association of Realtors, said the organization has also been contacted by people about this scam.
She said information about homes are “scraped” from real estate websites and used to create these fictitious rental advertisements.
“We make every effort to protect clients’ information,” she said. “All photos sent to REALTOR.ca are watermarked with our name. However, in the event that someone does scrape a photo from another source, we recommend the potential renter contact the landlord directly and always see the property in person.
“We also recommend you conduct an online search to see if the property was previously for sale or rent.”
This research, the real estate board said, is critical.
“Scammers usually use previous ads, so this research helps to ensure it is not a duplicate post,” said Michael Gibbons, the association president. “If you find a previous post, contact the agent or landlord to verify legitimacy.”
The Canadian Real Estate Association has installed sophisticated software to prevent listings from being scraped from REALTOR.ca
, but with so many websites that are not authorized, it is impossible to stop this from happening.
“We are happy to work hand in hand with the Chatham-Kent police to make the public more aware in order for this not to happen again,” Gibbons said.
If you are looking for a rental property, Cowell advises making sure the property is legitimately for rent.
“If the owner or the landlord won’t meet you in person, that should be a red flag,” she said.
If a person is pressuring you to make a deposit via e-transfer, that should also be a red flag, she added.
Wieringa said she’s heard of instances where people are asked to send their passports and other personal information."
By Ellwood Shreve - Chathamdailynews.ca