How To Avoid Common Rental Scams

Posted On Jul 2, 2019

Searching for the perfect apartment often begins with an online marketplace search. Most rentals posted are legitimate, but every now and then a few bad eggs sneak through and cause problems for innocent and trusting apartment hunters.

Here are a few common scams to be aware of, along with what to watch for, from and the Edmonton Police Department.

The Overseas Landlord

Landlords who claim they live overseas can be very convincing when it comes to sending them a deposit to secure an apartment. They will often have beautiful, affordable apartments for rent in great locations.

The Overseas Tenant

Potential tenants who claim to live out of town or overseas tend to send fraudulent deposit cheques. They will either claim an emergency and request a refund or will send more money than what was agreed upon and ask for the extra funds to be returned.

What to watch for:

  • Dealing locally is best. Be wary if the landlord/tenant cannot meet with you face to face and only communicates via email.
  • Ask to talk with them on the phone, if they are reluctant or refuse, it is more than likely a scam.
  • Never do business with an overseas landlord unless you have personally verified their identity and that they actually own the apartment advertised.
  • Avoid ads that are too good to be true.
  • Be very careful wiring money using Western Union or MoneyGram. Sending money overseas will likely result in losing all of it. Funds are available instantly, untraceable, and worldwide.

The Fake Credit Report

Landlord scam artists may ask for renters to bring credit reports to the apartment viewing or proof of payment before renting. They direct unsuspecting victims to websites that look legitimate but exist only to steal credit card information.

What to watch for:

  • Be very suspicious of any credit report website that isn't one of the big ones: Equifax or TransUnion.
  • Landlords should not ask for a credit check in order to tour an apartment.

The Proof of Payment

Sneaky landlords may use the excuse they've run into "bad luck" with previous tenants not paying rent and would like proof that the renter has the financial means by suggesting they conduct a money transfer with a friend or relative and provide a scanned copy of the transfer. Which then gets used by the scam artist posing as the friend or relative to collect the money from a wire transfer office.

What to watch for:

  • Again, use extreme caution when sending money and any information related to money transfers.
  • Avoid a landlord that asks for "proof of payment."

The Background Check

Landlords may sound like they are well within their rights to ask for a background check before they rent their apartment. However, they may ask for very personal information such as address, birthdate, bank account information, and a social insurance number. That type of specific information can then be used to steal someone's identity.

What to watch for:

  • Giving someone your social insurance number (SIN) or banking information is optional. Our team at Kelson Group may ask for your SIN number as the benefit to the applicant is we find the right credit check information.

The Imposter Landlord

Some scams will go as far as breaking and entering. Vacant apartments or ones for sale are broken into and the "imposter landlord" will conduct viewings as if it is for rent. After distributing applications and supposedly reviewing them, they will approve renters and collect deposits for first and last month's rent. When moving day comes, unsuspecting renters are left without an apartment and their deposits.

What to watch for:

  • See if the property is legitimately available by doing a quick internet search.
  • Also investigate the landlord and see if you can find anyone who has done business with them before.

Fake Escrow Service

Landlords will suggest holding deposits in an 'escrow site'. The sites look legitimate, but once sufficient funds have been collected, the fake sites vanish.

What to watch for:

  • Again, use extreme caution with transferring money - whenever possible, use a credit card.
  • If you are ever feeling pressured to give a deposit, that is a sure sign you should walk away.

If you've become the victim of a rental scam, the Edmonton Police department suggests the following:

  1. Inform the police. It's likely they could be investigating similar scams and can add your information to strengthen the investigation.
  2. Contact whoever published the ad. If the scam originated from an advertisement, let the publisher know what happened.
  3. File a complaint with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Internet Fraud Complaint Center, and for ads on rent boards, email the details to:
  4. Go back and check for any red flags. Being the victim of a rental scam isn't your fault, but if you re-examine the situation for warning signs you could potentially prevent it from happening again to yourself or someone else.
  5. Share your story. Venting about it can make you feel better, plus your story may prevent someone from falling into the same trap.

For further information on rental scams check out: and the Edmonton Police Department.

We hope you've found this information helpful. Please be safe, use caution, common sense, and good judgement when considering apartment rentals.

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