Consumers Renting Property Should Beware of Online Scam

Warning from the NIAGARA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Consumers looking for property to rent should beware of a scam that involves rental properties posted to online classifieds sites and take steps to protect themselves against fraud. A scam has recently resurfaced that concerns non-existent property advertised for rent on online classifieds site such as Kijiji and Craig’s List where property details, photos and the name of the REALTOR® listing the property has been scraped from other sites. While this scam has been active in the past, it has recently resurfaced and diminishing inventories of rental properties may result in consumers who are more vulnerable to this kind of fraud.

“The scammer impersonates the REALTOR® by using his or her name to respond to inquiries from prospective renters. The scammer is unavailable to meet the prospective renter in-person at the property and proposes that funds be forwarded to rent the property. The ‘owner’ will, in turn, make arrangements for someone to meet the renter at the property and hand over the keys. As you can imagine, no one shows up at the property to meet the renter.”

The risk for citizens falling victim to this type of scam becomes greater in markets where there are fewer rental vacancies. When demand is high and vacancies low, consumers may take greater risks to secure a rental situation – risks that they wouldn’t necessarily otherwise take. Consumers are advised, when using online classifieds websites to ensure all financial transactions take place locally and in person.