Renters Beware: Online Scam Resurfacing

REALTORS® are unknowingly being implicated in an online scam that involves rental property. This scam has recently resurfaced in Alberta with markets heating up and rental property becoming more scarce in some areas, this type of scam may become more prevalent and consumers may be at great risk of falling victim.

What is it?

Property is being advertised for rent on online classified websites like Kijiji and the information describing the property and the contact person appears to have been scraped from REALTOR.ca or elsewhere. The scammer impersonates the REALTOR® to respond to emails from prospective renters. Often, the scammer indicates that the owner is unable to meet the prospective renter at the property. The scammer proposes that they will arrange to have someone meet the renter at the location with the keys, so long as the renter has sent money to cover the rental fee, etc. As you can imagine no on ever shows up at the property to meet the renter.

How does it work? (an actual example):

Full Duplex! location in Lakeland close to Maude
Date Listed: 06-Mar-12
Price: $900.00
Address: Grande Prairie, AB Canada
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2.5
For rent by Owner
Furnished: No
Pet Friendly: Yes
Offered per side or you can purchase the full duplex! This property was custom built and offers a very open main floor plan plus a fully developed basement. Each side has 3 bedrooms plus 2.5 baths. Superb location in Lakeland close to the new Maude Elementary School.

When the prospective renter posted an inquiry, here is the response they received:

Thanks for your interest in my Duplex. My name is (name of listing REALTOR® inserted here) I am a construction Engineer and I am the owner of the 3 bedroom Duplex . I have been transferred to one of our branches in West Africa and that is why I am putting up the Duplex for rent. The Duplex vital informative documents and the entrance keys to my Duplex is with us, we try to look for dependable agent to handle the rent but could not find one due to the limited time we had before leaving the country. Mostly we do not want our property to be given to any sort of person to avoid damages and troubles.The Duplex is available for rent and is available for long term and short term lease.

Duplex Address: XXXX XXX Ave Grande Prairie, AB, Canada

This unit is available for immediate move in.Modern 3 beds and 3 Full Bath Basement:Full Suite the Duplex is strategically located in a very cool and lovely environment with five (5) appliances including dish washer with in-suite laundry and plenty of storage space and parking space . Professional and mature neighbors ensure peaceful living arrangements. Freshly painted and immaculately clean with private bathroom.

We are looking for a responsible person that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money for the rent but want the property to be kept clean all the time as it is our hard-earned property. If you are honestly interested and will absolutely maintain our property (Taking care of it like yours) as I hope I can put my trust and confidence in you presently, I earlier wanted to sell the Duplex but had a second thought to rather put it up for rent. The rent is ($900 )including utilities Damages Deposit Fee ($400) So I will like you to get back to me so that I can forward you the full interior pictures to you to have an idea how beautiful and spacious the inside looks and i will like you to fill out the rental application form below…….

Full Name :
Address :
Phone # :
Gender :
Work :
Are You Married:
Marital Status :
Do you Drink Alcohol :
Pets :
Do you smoke :
How Many People Will Be Living In The Duplex:
Your Move-in Date :
Your Move-Out Date :

Thanks for taking your time in writing me and hope to hear back from you.
Best Regards
(name of REALTOR®) And Family

What to Do?

It is difficult to prevent data scraping. The recourse is to alert our members and consumers about this type of fraud and what to watch out for.  Ensure all financial transactions take place locally and in person.

AREA has drafted a media release that, in partnership with local boards, will be forwarded to the media so that consumers can be warned about this type of scam. AREA will aslo communicate with Kijiji so that this scam can be added to the list of common scams on their site.

NOTE: If you see another REALTORS®‘s name used in conjunction with property rentals, do not assume that it is part of this scam, as many members do participate in property rental.

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