A Burnaby renter who has struggled finding a place to live says she was suckered during the summer because she was desperate after missing out on so many other places to live.
Amanda contacted the NOW after giving money to someone who said they were renting out a basement suite. She now admits she ignored some red flags because the Burnaby rental market is so competitive.
“After doing more research, I realized I fell for a couple of things,” Amanda said. “First, the deal was too good to be true. It was priced pretty cheap and the photos looked good. Big and clean and bright. The person I texted with said they were about to rent it to someone else, but that they ‘liked me’ and were willing to do a deal with me if I was ready with a cash deposit. So I put down a deposit and they vanished. When it came time to get the keys, no answer and I never heard back. I know I was foolish but it’s a terrible rental market right now. They were pressuring me and I felt I had to jump on this chance.”
This is apparently a common scam, according to a woman named Tara who has been researching the local rental housing market and has identified a number of issues.
Tara has actually responded to many ads that look sketchy just to see the response.
Now she is warning others.
“Many people know about these scams, but many don't. The scammers prey on newcomers to the country (who may not have English as a first language), students moving to other cities for school, young people just entering the market, and people who need low income housing … The easiest way to spot them is they are priced well below market value. Also, the rental scams are usually copied and pasted from legitimate realtor sites (where a real sale ad is placed), or rental sites (with a listing at market value). To verify this, you can Google search a provided address or Google search the entire description and see it has been taken from a realtor site.
“Almost all of the ads are 'furnished', state pets are 'ok', and do not state 'no smoking' (when most legitimate ads do). Or they just click on all the options provided by the Craigslist template. When you contact the scammer they will ask for your direct contact email (so nothing is recorded through Craigslist) - something legitimate landlords should not do. Legitimate landlords should include their local phone number and request contact there. The number one rule of thumb is do not transfer money or give personal information until you have physically viewed the rental property. Scammers will say they are out of town, but you can drive by the property to have a look but please don't disturb the current tenants.”
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.