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Avoiding Rental Scams

Don’t let scammers steal your money and personal information when looking for housing.


August 2023  time to read  4 min read

As the new school year approaches, rental scammers are appearing to take advantage of students looking for last-minute accommodations. These scammers will take advantage of your urgent need for housing to steal your money and personal information.

Rental scammers will post an ad to online sites for room or apartment rentals and solicit you for fees, up-front rent payments, and personal information. They will often demand cash immediately via e-transfer to ‘hold’ the rental or for ‘application fees’, but there is no property to rent. Once you pay, the scammer will disappear with your money.

The Scams

There are several variations on rental scams. These include:

  • Fake rental listing on an online marketplace scam asking for money upfront to hold the unit without being able to view it

  • Fake owner scam similar to the fake rental listing but backed up by physical access to the property by a fake owner/agent

  • Application fee scams asking you to pay a large application fee for a rental that will never be offered

  • Identity fraud where you asked to provide significant personal info such as your social insurance number or government-issued ID

Red Flags

There are several red flags for rental scams that could help you to spot them before it’s too late. These include:

  • The deal is too good to be true. Maybe the price is too low, or there’s availability in a location where you wouldn’t expect it. Remember, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

  • Watermarked images. Some scammers will steal property images from realtors and other commercial websites, and these images may have a logo or similar image imbedded in them.

  • They don’t want to show you the property. This is a sign that there is no property to view.

  • They’re not interested in learning about you. Most property owners want to protect their investment, and one way they do that is by vetting new renters. Beware of landlords who do not bother.

  • They’re out-of-country. This is a common excuse given for why a property can’t be shown, or for why you can’t meet the owner.

  • They want you to send funds and provide personal information right away. This may be in the form of application fees, fees to ‘hold’ the rental, or up-front rental payments.