January 10, 2014 6:14 pm
Updated: January 10, 2014 6:18 pm

Tight housing market fuels rental scams

Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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CALGARY- A tight rental market has sparked the resurgence of a phony landlord scam that’s made the rounds many times.

Nicole Fish found what looked like a great deal for an apartment in Inglewood on rentspot.com. However, she became suspicious when the landlord e-mailed her, saying he was in the U.S. for missionary work and would send her the keys after she forwarded a $700 deposit.

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“That raised a red flag for me, because I’m not going to give my money to somebody without seeing the place first,” she said.

Fish went to the condo complex, and discovered there was nothing for rent. She soon found a dozen other phony rental ads online, all posted by the same person.

The Calgary Rental Association says with a low vacancy rate, these types of scams are common.

“They’ll really reduce the rent so it looks very attractive to people,” explains Gerry Baxter from the Calgary Rental Association. “The old adage still remains. If it looks too good to be true, than you know there’s a problem and it is.”

Most fake listings are actually legitimate ads that have been copied and reposted by fraudsters.

“You get these criminals who scour these sites and they’ll…copy them over some of these ads that legitimate landlords have put up and the criminal will post it again on a free site.”

Fish reported the ads to Rent Spot, which have since been taken down.

Warning signs of fake listings include:

  • The rent is well below market value
  • The landlord does not want to meet in person
  • You’re asked to wire money outside of Alberta
  • E-mails that have poor grammar or spelling mistakes
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