04/08/2016 04:25 EDT | Updated 04/09/2017 05:12 EDT

Telltale Signs Of A Rental Scam (And How To Avoid Them)

Collector with serious face asking sad householder for money
JackF via Getty Images
Collector with serious face asking sad householder for money

Written by Elisa Krovblit & Brandon Bastaldo

Rental Scams: how do they work?

Rental scams are becoming more and more sophisticated, don't let it happen to you! Check out our guide to some of the most common rental scams you'll come across and how you can avoid becoming a victim of rental fraud!

Posted by YP NextHome / PJ Immobilier - Canada on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The famous saying "the devil's in the details" is really no joke, and hiding in the shadows of accountability, legal documentation and paper trails is how scammers and con artists trick unsuspecting renters into blowing thousands of dollars on non-existent rental units. Don't let yourself be a victim, protect yourself from these rental scams:

Scam 1: Scamming the out-of-towners

Shopping for a rental in a city  -- or even country -- that you don't live in is such a common occurrence. New job opportunity? Moving in with a long distance partner? You better believe that you're going to have to do some virtual sleuthing in order to lock down that dream rental. Sadly, the fact that you're not around in real life is something that rental scams and con artists rely upon.

The Solution: Making that real life connection


Just like online dating, making a connection with your potential suitor (in this case, potential vacancy) in real life is incredibly important. If you know anyone living in the area, kindly ask them to help you out and check out your apartment of interest. The price of a gift card to the LCBO could save you thousands of dollars and many headaches in the long run. 

The internet is your friend here -- so try searching for some information on your point of contact or the listing. In most cases, no information found is almost always a bad sign.

Scam 2: "Pay me in!"

As with most transactions involving property, there's usually a sense of urgency involved. So, when it comes time for you to cough up the dough, con artists trying to pull slick rental scams rely on pressuring you to transfer or wire them money in a traceless way. Asking for a wire transfer or cash up front is usually a sign that you're dealing with a shady person.

The Solution: Start dropping those bread crumbs

Demand to use a payment method, like an e-transfer, cheque or credit card that leaves a definite paper trail. Again, scammers will try to use time-sensitivity to pressure you into succumbing to their sinister rental scams, but you have to remember that anyone who is not OK with accountable money transfers is probably someone you wouldn't want to do business with in the first place.


Scam 3: A contract? Ain't no body got time for dat!

Informality to a con artist is like flour to a baker: they simply can't make their rental scams without it. If you're ever unfortunate enough to come across a rental scammer, you'll notice that one thing they do not like to do is go through formalities like contracts and written agreements. They will act like they don't have time and are in a hurry, but really, avoiding these important documents enables them to easily slip away, undetected and unfindable by yourself and the police.


The Solution: It all comes down to your standards

Much like the dating game, renters have to teach landlords how they'd like to be treated. This means demanding that your transactions and agreements be documented and signed off on paper. Your prospective landlord doesn't want to do it? No problem, find a new one. There are lots of spaces out there for rent, and even if the deal seems very attractive, if you lose your first and last month's deposit you won't be able to rent anywhere. Accountable and trustworthy landlords will ask for and be OK with supplying any of the following:

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Scam 4: The masterful con artist

In a lot of the other rental scams listed so far, most of the con involves a scammer masterfully manipulating their prolonged communications and omitting traceable agreements and paper trails in order to get your hard-earned cash. In this rental scam, the con artist relies solely on their ability to swoon and charm you in the 20- to 30-minute interaction you have when checking their place out. The con artist may be behind on rent or simply need to skip town -- so their plan involves them meeting with dozens of would-be tenants, collecting rental checks on the spot and spending them on their expensive plane ticket to Mexico.


Beware, these are arguably the most sophisticated manipulators of the rental system as they can swindle you out of thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes!

The Solution: Protect your neck!

Whether you're dealing with an expert scammer or a sweet old lady, you must always place you and your money's safety first. This means not trusting people simply because you "like the way they look" or think that "they look like a nice person." Just like anything else in adult life, this is a business transaction and at the end of the day, niceness and generosity are not going to hold up in court.

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