Finding a good place to rent at a reasonable price in the Greater Vancouver area can be tough. And if that isn't difficult enough, now you've got to be on guard for online ads that could be scams.
An online ad for a house for rent in North Vancouver seemed legitimate and several people took the bait. But they were surprised to learn the man who posted the ad didn't even own the house.
Meghan McAloney says she was excited when she saw the rental listing on Craigslist: A four bedroom house in North Vancouver being rented out for $2,800 a month. When she replied to the ad, she got an email back to fill out an application and a story from the supposed landlord.
“We talked on the phone,” she explained. “He said he had been transferred out of Vancouver and the house was for sale, but he decided to rent it instead. His wife was sick and they needed the income right away.
But he asked how much she could send for a deposit, she got suspicious.
“I thought, hmm, I don’t freely give money,” she said.
Turns out the home belongs to someone else altogether and is listed for sale on MLS.
“It belongs to our client and she’s got it for sale, not for rent,” said Gavin Price, with Re/Max Crest Realty.
Price contacted McLaughlin on Your Side after receiving several phone calls from people inquiring if the property was being taken off the market to rent.
“Some of them have been verifying whether or not they should be handing over money,” he said. “I’m up to six phone calls and three emails from concerned members of the public asking me to verify whether the home is for rent or whether it’s for sale.”
“I was kind of surprised,” said McAloney.
The ad and the listing are mirror images. The culprit just copied and pasted. So Ross McLaughlin replied to the ad and was given a number. He soon got a text from a 619 area code, San Diego, from a man calling himself Zack Henry.
When McLaughlin asked for an address, Henry told him he preferred the e-transfer payment method. And he wouldn’t take a cashier’s cheque.
“I didn’t feel he vetted me quite enough as a potential tenant,” said McAloney.
If you’re renting a private home, you should vet the landlord as well. Find out if they’re the registered owner, ask to meet at the house and if the rent is too good to be true, think twice.
"There's plenty of management companies out there that you can do directly with and they've already verified the property and then they'll verify you. So it protects both halves, both the landlords and the renters," suggested Price.
"A lot of people that aren't locals I'm sure that they're falling for these scams, you know. It's kind of scary that there arepeople like that out there," said McAloney.
Many times these rent scams involve people who are overseas using an internet phone, spoofing local numbers and if you ask too many questions they usually just quit communicating, which is what happened to McLaughlin.