Uptick in rental scams prompts warning from Lethbridge police

Click to play video: 'Rental scams take aim at would-be property renters'
Rental scams take aim at would-be property renters
WATCH: Jan Seibal with the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority says scammers are using real rental property photos to scam potential renters out of their money. Seibal said these scammers will create new rental ads with these photos and will scam people into paying them money for a fake damage deposit. She said these scams bubble up from time to time, but they’ve seen an increase over this summer and fall. – Oct 16, 2023

Amid a housing crisis and low inventory on rentals nationwide, Lethbridge police are warning would-be renters about scammers posing as landlords and collecting security deposits and first month’s rent on fraudulent rental agreements.

Police say between August and December, there have been numerous reports of rental scams involving victims who posted on a Facebook group called “Pet Friendly Homes for Rent in Lethbridge.”

The victims allege that they were contacted by scammers that claimed to have a rental property and corresponded with them.

Click to play video: 'Calgary family out thousands of dollars in rental scam'
Calgary family out thousands of dollars in rental scam

“The victims were subsequently contacted privately by subjects claiming to have a property for rent leading to further communication via email.” Police said in a statement Thursday.

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“During the exchange of emails the ‘landlord’ claimed to be out of town and was unable to show the property, but provided a fake listing and upon receiving proof of employment, valid identification and references, sent a rental agreement directing the damage deposit and/or first  month’s rent be sent via e-transfer. In all cases, once the payment was received, the subject stopped communicating with the victims and the rental agreements were found to be fraudulent. “

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Lethbridge police say rental scams are not uncommon and they are advising anyone seeking a rental property to confirm the offer is legitimate before sending any money.

In response to the rise of rental scams, police have produced a list possible red flags:

  • The prospective landlord wants to communicate only via email
  • They claim they are currently out of town, live in another city or overseas
  • They refuse to talk on the phone or meet face-to-face
  • They will not show the property in person – no matter the reason they give
  • They want you to move in immediately without seeing the property
  • The rent is too good to be true or below market value
  • The listing is vague, showing only outside photos
  • Request a damage deposit or first month’s rent without a formal rental agreement, especially if it’s through electronic transfer

Police say you can protect yourself from scams by viewing the property in person before signing agreements or sending any money, researching the property by looking up the address to see if it exists, doing a land titles search at a registry to identify the property owner, and requesting to see the property manager or landlord’s identification to verify they are who they claim to be.

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Police also advise against sending electronic transfers or cash and say you should carefully read the rental agreement/lease prior to signing, speak to current or previous tenants and always use rental apps and never communicate outside the platform.

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