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‘I got swindled out of desperation,’ says Burnaby man about fake rental scam

A Burnaby renter warns others
This scam warning was posted by someone earlier this year about a rental unit in Burnaby.

Back in March, Burnaby RCMP issued a warning about Burnaby residents getting taken for big bucks by people fronting for rentals that aren’t theirs to rent out.

Terry was one of those people.

Police say the fraud involves the scammer posting an advertisement for a rental property.

An unsuspecting renter responds to the ad and often agrees to meet with an individual who identifies themselves as the landlord. After viewing the property, the renter again meets with the landlord to deliver a sum of money to pay for rent and the initial damage deposit. The renter signs an agreement, is provided a key to the residence and a date to take occupancy. When the renter attempts to move in, they are met by the real owner of the property and told the home is not available for rent.

Terry told the NOW that this was close to what happened to him, although he did all of it over the phone because of COVID-19 fears. He also had a time crunch as he was basically "couch-surfing" at that point and running out of options. 

“I never felt comfortable about the entire thing but cases were surging, I hadn’t been vaccinated yet because of my age and I really need to secure a place to live,” Terry said. “The guy told me on the phone that he had four other people all lined up to take the place but that he had a soft spot for me so he would give me a break. I got swindled out of desperation. Lesson learned.”

Terry said he has filed a report with police because he figures that since it was done by phone, the phone was likely a burner that’s been trashed by now.

“I’ve since found another place to live and so I’m just moving on,” he said.

Alternatively, police say the scam has a landlord answering the renter’s response to the ad and telling the renter he/she lives overseas. The landlord often reassures the renter by providing copies of their passport and/or driver’s license (which are most often believed to be fraudulent). Once the renter has transferred money by internet e-transfer, money order/wire, Bitcoin and other means, the landlord will stop contact.

To better protect yourself from this type of scam:

  • Use a reputable renting website or go to the property management office itself;
  • Conduct an internet search on the address, see if anything suspicious is found;
  • If the rental price is too good to be true – it’s likely a fraud;
  • Don’t make a deposit in cash, cash is not traceable;
  • Don’t wire money, wire transfers are extremely hard to cancel and trace;
  • Don’t give out personal information like your S.I.N number, bank account or credit card;
  • Make sure you are speaking with the landowner or property manager;
  • Ask the surrounding neighbours about the landowner and property history (neighbours should be able to tell you who lives next door and if they are the owner or not)