Online scammers have consistently become more and more clever in their ability to disguise fraudulent intentions with what seem to be legitimate websites and claims. They will attempt to lour and trick unsuspecting people with the intent of stealing information, money, identity, and more. Real estate is just as susceptible as any other industry, and the latest trend is seeing fake rental listings posted without the homeowners knowledge or permission.
Fraudsters will look for homes for sale or recently sold online and rip the listing to make it appear as though they own the home and are offering it as being available for rent on online platforms such as Kijiji or Craigslist. The intention of this scam is to ask unsuspecting renters for a copy of their identification and a rental deposit for a home site-unseen.
There are homes currently listed for rent on Craigslist that are also listed for sale by licenced Realtors in Guelph. It’s hard to say for sure that these are fake rental listings because certainly some of them are legitimate; however, many of them are asking for rents significantly lower than their likely market value.
We inquired about a few of the suspected fraudulent listings to investigate a bit further into who might be behind this scam. Upon asking for more information, we were asked to electronically send first and last months rent in exchange for a key to be delivered by mail as the “landlord” is currently out of town. The phone number provided is a landline with an out of town area code.
Unfortunately for consumers, the staff at Craigslist can be reluctant to take down listings based on suspicion of fraud. This is not surprising as these sites are typically very poor at policing their own platforms. To make matters worse, the police are typically only willing to get involved if someone falls victim to the scam and files an official complaint, at which point the situation is validated and legal action may follow.
As experienced real estate professionals, it is easy for us to decipher between legitimate listings and fraudulent listings. However, for an unsuspecting individual in the market, they might see this as an opportunity to save a few bucks and inquire on a listing. You may not think that people would be so trusting as to fall for this scam, given the risk of financial loss, but there have been cases in Guelph of unsuspecting consumers being tricked into sending rental deposits to fake landlords. This is compounded with the intense competitive nature of the current market, making it easier to see why some may feel rushed into making a risky decision.
It’s not just craigslist. We were able to find fraudulent rental property listings in Guelph on other platforms as well; websites such as Kijiji, Prop2Go, and others. The disguised ads are well put together and the “to good to be true” low price may be the only give-away.
How can you protect yourself? For starters, never ever pay a rental deposit without seeing the property first hand and meeting with an individual face-to-face; wether it be a landlord, property manager, or Realtor. Second, always make sure you are searching on credible websites. Realtor.ca and brokerage websites are examples of credible sources for finding legitimate property listings.
Our team of experienced Realtors and brokers can assist you in navigating the complex world of Real Estate. Our expert knowledge will ensure you are protected from scammers and get the most value for your dollar. To get started on your search for your new dream home, or to list your current home, give us a call at 519-837-0900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.