Fake rentals make a resurgence in tight Victoria housing market

Fake rentals make a resurgence in tight Victoria housing market

In high demand market, scammers encourage speedy response without viewing

If a two-bedroom two-bathroom condo in Greater Victoria for $1,100 sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

Graham Bell found such a listing for a condo in the Oak Bay building he lives in. A member of the strata executive, he followed up on the Craigslist post and discovered it was an apartment recently sold, with photos featured the same as the real estate listing.

“If it appears to be too good a deal, it probably isn’t a good idea,” Bell said.

He reported the ad to Craigslist immediately, but without a response email, felt it was prudent to alert Oak Bay Police Department as well, who reinforced his flag on Craigslist.

“It’s hard for law enforcement to chase something like that,” Bell said, citing the vague aol.com email address.

According to Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties of the Oak Bay Police Department, scammers create fraudulent classified ads, often online, for rentals available in a preferred location.

Ads are usually posted with a below-average asking price to encourage urgency. They use high demand to encourage speedy response without viewing.

“Scammers can make you feel rushed into making a decision so you need to take your time and, if you’re feeling pressured, it should sound your little alarm bells,” Bernoties said.

Sometimes they issue a false rental questionnaire seeking personal information such as banking details, contact information, occupation, income and more.

“Renters should be very cautious about giving cash deposits or wiring money for a property and should carefully the assess the property prior to providing any funds whatsoever,” said Bernoties. “The scammers will prefer to do business by email or text than meeting you personally at the property. Landlords do not require your personal bank account information, so you should not provide it.”

Frequently, scams include an absent landlord where rent is discounted to get good tenants who will take care of the property while they are away on business. Sometimes showings are unavailable but a “full refund” is assured if the rental does not meet the consumer’s satisfaction. Once an offer is accepted, consumers are asked for first and last months’ rent in exchange for the keys which are promised via express mail.

In the Oak Bay case, the condo in “Oak Beach” existed, but is not available for lease or rent. It’s even been redecorated since the images posted were taken.

“Politely asking for their identification can help you assess their legitimacy,” Bernoties said. “Talking to neighbours about the property can help to determine whether it is, in fact, a rental property.

Bell hopes he nipped it in the bud, but there’s no way to know who might have already sent a deposit on the place.

In the meantime, they’ll post a sign on the front door to alert anyone who might come looking, to alert them of the scam.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation the rental rate is 0.7 per cent for a two-bedroom in Greater Victoria with an average rental rate of $1,288. James Bay had one of the highest two-bedroom rents and Esquimalt was the lowest at $1,090. (late 2017 report).

Warning signs:

• When searching for rentals, go to the address. Schedule a showing and confirm its availability.

• Request a lease/contract. Review it thoroughly.

• Complete open source searches on rental addresses to ensure it’s not a duplicate post.

• Do not send funds to strangers.

• Contact Equifax and Transunion if you’ve provided sensitive information on applications.

• Go with your gut. If it seems fishy it probably is.



Fake rentals make a resurgence in tight Victoria housing market

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