It has been difficult to find rental properties across the city of Calgary during the last year. With so many people looking for a unit and so little available, it can become quite a desperate situation if you're looking for a place to rent. Unfortunately, some underhanded people are taking advantage of this desperation and are running a rental scam on Kijiji.
Rental Scams Are On the Rise in Calgary
The RCMP is warning consumers to watch out for a scam that will encourage you to pay for a damage deposit for a rental property that's completely fictitious. Scammers are placing pictures of houses on the Red Deer and Calgary Kijiji classified ads websites and advertising them as rental units.
If you respond to the ad, the people at the other end will let you know that they are currently out of the country and will ask for a Western Union or Moneygram transfer for the damage deposit and for the rent for the first month. You'll be promised the keys when the money has been received.
You may also be asked to fill out an application form for the rental. The spammers will use your personal identification for identity theft and fraud.
Top Rental Scam Red Flags
Knowing what to look for when searching for rentals is key to avoiding scams. While many rental scams are quite complicated and high-tech, they still tend to give away their schemes to careful readers who know what red flags to look for. Watch out for:
- Claims of high demand or anything that would cause you to hurry and rush through the application process, such as having other renters interested and ready to move in
- Refusal to show you the property or give you a tour because it's already occupied, while landlords in Calgary are legally allowed to require current tenants to allow them in to show a property
- Grammar and factual mistakes in the listing, such as a mismatch between the claimed number of bedrooms and what's shown in the photos or on a floor plan
- Free background checks and credit reports advertised by the landlord, which can be used as phishing schemes to get your personal information
- MLS or real estate agent watermarks on the photos, which indicate they were taken from a sale listing and are likely stolen entirely
- Requests to fill out an application or submit background information before seeing the property, which indicates you're being phished for your personal details
- Requests for deposits or payments before a lease is signed or the property is seen, two more signs there's no actual rental property to visit
- No address, location information, or photos in an ad
- Homes listed below value in popular vacation areas, a scam in which a criminal tries to rent out a summer vacation home while its owners are away.
How to Protect Yourself From a Rental Scam
The police are currently on the watch for these types of scams but as a potential renter you'll need to keep yourself protected. Here are some safety tips offered by the police that should be followed:
- Never put down a deposit for a home that you haven't stepped into.
- Be suspicious of any low prices
- Work with a professional property management company.
- Photos that look professional with exotic descriptions may be coming from website listings of homes for sale.
- Never provide personal information directly through an advertisement. Your personal details should be filled out on paper and then handed over to the person in charge of renting out the unit.
Be on the lookout if you're looking to rent a home or an apartment so you and your household don't fall prey to a rental scam. Consider working with a real estate agent to ensure you have an expert's opinion in place to keep you safe while you're viewing new rental homes.