Hunting for rental housing in any city can be exhausting, in Vancouver it can be downright depressing. Going to view small dingy 1 bedroom apartments ‘accidentally’ listed as 2 bedrooms and described as ‘huge’ and ‘bright’ is a frustrating waste of time, but it would be even worse to lose deposit money to a scam listing of an apartment that doesn’t even exist.
Craigslist has brought a convenience to rental shopping that cuts both ways – It’s easier for you to look through listings in your bathrobe, but its also easier (and free!) for con-men and scammers to grab nice pictures off the web and list fake rentals that are too good to be true.
The Vancouver Police say at least 15 people in the last month have been conned out of deposit money in face to face meetings with fake landlords, but there’s no reason a scammer even needs to be in Vancouver if you’re not paying close attention. A common scam is to list an apartment that’s too good to be true, but the purported ‘owner’ happens to be out of the country, maybe just starting a new business in Athens Greece or on a missionary trip to Asia.
They will describe the apartment in glowing terms and offer to use a service like TNT, FedEx, UPS or DHL to insure that you get the key – they’ll send you a link to a legitimate shipping website first to get your confidence and then send you a fake ‘secure’ link to make it easy for you to send them your money. Dissapointingly the key never shows up and you won’t hear from the ‘landlord’ again once your deposit is gone.
It’s not too difficult to avoid this sort of scam, just view listings with a sceptical eye and deal with local people, only giving a deposit after you’ve viewed the suite and gotten enough information out of the owner to make you comfortable. If you do make email contact with a seller on craigslist that isn’t local, take a close look at any responses you receive – The following is an example of a fake header message in an email:
** CRAIGSLIST ADVISORY — AVOID SCAMS
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow
** Transaction: For a secure transaction we recommend TNT, Fed Ex, DHL or UPS, services because can verify the information of the seller and buyer.
** craigslist recommend Deeann38officcee as a trusted seller.
A common ‘phishing’ technique is shown here – make your rip-off seem legitimate by warning against ‘scams’. That alone isn’t enough to call this email a fake, but there are a couple of other indicators here that say ‘scam’. Craigslist never recommends any advertiser as a ‘trusted seller’, and they don’t recommend any shipper. A simple check of the Craigslist site confirms these points.
It looks like the lower mainland has at least one rental scam-hunter and you may find more useful information on their website. Unfortunately it all comes down to one basic point to keep in mind: if it looks ‘too good to be true’ it probably is.