Beware of rental scams using your listings

A few brazen bandits have been targeting hopeful renters again with a cash deposit scam on rental homes that don’t exist – because they’re showing your listings.

How it works:

  1. The scam artist scours MLS® for property listings looking for homes that appear vacant, and uses photos and descriptions of the property to create a fake rental ad on a classified site, such as Craigslist or Kijiji.
  2. Home-seekers respond to the rental ad and meet the scammer posing as an owner-landlord or manager (who likely uses a fake name) outside the empty home. The scammer comes up with an excuse why the home can’t be shown that day.  (i.e.:  landlord wasn’t able to get permission to show in time or something needs repair.)
  3. The scammer offers to take a “deposit” on the rental until it’s available for viewing.
  4. The scammer may also offer a monthly discount to those who agree to pay several months rent prior to moving in.
  5. After the scam artist worms the money out of the victim, she/he disappears without a trace.

By the time the would-be renters discover the dirty scheme, they’ve been skinned out of their hard earned money with you and your client only pawns in the game.

These fake landlords have even been known to break into the premises of listed properties to “show” the home to potential renters before they wrap up their rip-off and disappear.  (Imagine showing up at your seller’s home to find a dozen people lined up at the house, convinced they have a chance to secure a rental.)

Unfortunately, due to the limited supply of rental housing stock, it has become easier for criminals to take advantage of people desperate for housing and cheat them out of their hard earned money.

Unless you are vigilant about it, scams that use your listing information are not easy to prevent. And as long as the competition for housing remains intense, fraud artists will hover in the shadows, ready to pounce on an opportunity to defraud others.

Preventing rental scams

  • If possible don’t post images of empty homes; try to use ones when the home was furnished.
  • Check the classifieds online to see if someone is using any of your listings information or photos.
  • Open up your browser and enter some of the listing information, such as neighbourhood, street address, or property description – to see if it appears anywhere that it shouldn’t be.  If you discover it, notify the website administrators and flag it for removal.
  • Ask trusted neighbours to keep an eye out on the listed property for suspicious activity.
  • Ensure that the listed property is securely locked and alarmed at all times.
  • Report any suspicious activity to the police.