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Summer creates 'perfect storm' for B.C. rental scams, BBB warns

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People looking for deals on short and long-term rentals in B.C. are being warned that the summer months can bring a surge in scams.

The Better Business Bureau of Mainland British Columbia issued the caution this week, saying high demand and low vacancy rates in the country's priciest market create opportunities for fraudsters to capitalize on people who are trying to find something affordable.

“Students are looking to find their first homes after graduating from school, add that on to the pressure of families looking for vacation rentals, and this is the perfect storm for a scam artist looking to cash in,” said president Simone Lis in a statement.

The average amount of money lost by Canadians in these scams is $1,230, which Lis says is a 160 per cent increase from 2021.

Typically, these scams involve fake online listings and ask for payment before viewing the unit in person.

"Once the renters send payment to secure the listing, they often find out that the property doesn’t exist, is unavailable for rent, or isn’t the scammer's property to list in the first place," the BBB explains in the statement.

Tips to avoid falling victim to a scam include seeing the property in person or before exchanging any money. An online search for the property using the lister's email address or other details is also a good idea, as the BBB says sometimes these searches can reveal the same ad posted in multiple cities. When paying, the BBB says it's important to use cheques, e-transfers or other methods that can be traced.

But the main advice from the BBB is to know the market. And in Metro Vancouver that will almost always mean very high rents – even for small spaces and out-of-the-way locations.

"Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, and a great location," the statement says.

"If it seems too good to be true, it just might be."

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