When it comes to getting a rental, if it sounds too good to be true, it might be.
Salmon Arm RCMP recently received multiple complaints involving people who were reportedly scammed out of hundreds of dollars in e-transfer payments after falling victim to an online rental scam involving a property nestled in the Shuswap.
In the most recent case, the victim made two e-transfer payments totaling nearly $2,000 in order to secure the basement suite said to be situated in a home on 18 Street SE in Salmon Arm, BC. The victim traveled to Salmon Arm, set to take possession of his new rental when he was advised no such rental suite existed.
Investigators have determined that additional individuals looking to relocate from the Lower Mainland District (LMD) and northern BC have also been victimized by the same fraudster.
A woman from the LMD posted an online ad seeking a rental in Salmon Arm, when the suspect replied, claiming to have a suite for rent. In this particular case, the victim not only paid $1,000 to secure the rental, but shared personal information along with photocopies of personal identification. The victim became suspicious when the scammer began to ask the woman to purchase Bitcoin and gift cards for him.
This type of scam is not new and can happen on any online platform or website. In some cases, scammers will pull photos from legitimate listings or properties for sale and present them as their own. Typically, they will have a reason as to why they are unable to show the property in person. In each of these cases, the fraudster claimed to be residing in Ontario.
With fewer and fewer rentals available, it can be easy to be taken advantage of, especially if you’re moving to a community by yourself and are unable to personally visit the property in person, said Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesperson for the RCMP Southeast District in a press release.
It might not always be easy, but always make sure that you or someone you trust visits a property first before any funds change hands. Also, take added steps to confirm the person renting the property is its actual owner or representative. Taking the time to talk to neighbours in the area or a building’s caretaker can save you a whole lot of precious time and money in the end.
The RCMP added several tips for people who are looking for rentals to avoid being scammed.
The first tips are to arrange for the renter or someone they trust to visit the property in person before exchanging money and to talk to others in the area to confirm who owns the property. Also, ask to see previous utility bills as another way of verifying the landlord’s identity.
Also advised is conducting an online search of any photos of the rental or the address to see if it has been associated with scams in the past, and ensuring a proper rental agreement is provided and signed by both parties.
Finally, the RCMP recommends paying for a rental in a method other than cash or e-transfers, such as by cheque or bank draft.
If you have been scammed of money or have provided personal information to a potential fraudster, please report the incident to your local RCMP or police of jurisdiction and contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
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