Prince Edward OPP are reminding residents and visitors to be aware of a rental accommodation scam that’s been making the rounds recently.
With municipality a popular tourist area, attracting thousands of people here for the wonderful attractions “The County” has to offer, websites such as Kijiji, Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace and Air BnB are becoming more popular as the advertising norm
Police would like to make residents aware of a popular rental scam that is going on involving classified ads or trusted vacation websites that target long and short term rental availabilities.
OPP would like to provide information on how the scams work and how people can protect themselves and loved ones from becoming victims of rental fraud.
Prince Edward Community Safety Officer Constable Karen German explained long term rental frauds usually work along the same lines as any normal rental vacancy would work. An application is requested where tenant provides usual contact, banking, job and pay details.
“The fraudster will then advise potential tenant that they are out of the country and unable to show the vacancy. The Applicant is asked to send a deposit either through a money service business, email money transfer or bank wire and keys will be sent. First and last months’ rent are then requested, sometimes even more money for various reasons,” German said. “The applicant is assured of a full refund if not satisfied. The ads are then deleted after funds received and communication with fraudster ceases. Keys are not sent and the rental does not exist.”
Short term rental frauds are usually advertised as vacation rentals in popular tourist destinations and are posted on trusted vacation websites or the fraudster will mimic vacation websites.
The constable said interested consumers will receive prompts from the fraudster and the desired travel dates are always available. The fraudster will then advise the traveller that the booking has to be secured quickly, creating a sense of urgency so that the consumer doesn’t lose out on the deal.
“Again they will use the same money transfer tactics, but will also recommend a secure payment processor. The payment processor is only available through the “trusted” website. The fraudster may also offer a discount if the reservation is paid in full,” German explained. “The consumer will lose out because there is no new reservation linked to the consumer’s account and they will lose ability to contact the website. In the worst cases, consumers will not realize they are victims until they arrive and there is no rental.”
How to protect yourself:
- Complete an online search for the property’s address to make sure it is not a duplicate post. Fraudsters often create their ads by copying the ad of a property that is listed for sale or recently sold.
- Research market value for the area and be wary of the prices that are lower than average.
- If possible, physically visit the property. Schedule a showing and confirm it is available.
- Request a lease agreement and review it thoroughly.
- Do not send money to strangers.
- Use a trusted travel agency to secure your vacation reservations.
- When entering into a rental agreement through a trusted service provider, you must use their payment provider to be eligible for their refund/cancellation policies.
- Contact Equifax / TransUnion if you have provided sensitive information on applications (to protect from identity theft and credit fraud).
- Trust your instincts. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you or you someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1 -888-495-8501 or report online at www.antifraudcentre.ca