Just because you use a reputable apartment search website doesn't mean you can't get scammed. As a tenant you need to be vigilant to avoid being defrauded. Start by investigating the listing by conducting a reverse image search to see if photos have been used elsewhere, like in a real estate listing, and checking the area code of the provided contact information. Many housing frauds have similar characteristics:
- The scammer says they have had to move suddenly, are therefore unable to show you the unit in person and are looking for someone to take good care of their property. Often they say they are clergy or missionaries or doctors to appear more trustworthy. They claim that keys will be mailed once you pay the required deposit.
- The scammer claims they have prepared all the papers with the assistance of a lawyer. Look for markings signalling the document has been downloaded from the internet. In Ontario most housing contracts need to be on the Ontario Standard Lease.
- The scammer will advertise themselves under one name but you will be asked to transfer money to an email address with a different name or asked to send a wire transfer or other hard-to-trace equivalent such as Moneygram or Bitcoin.
- The scammer will pressure you to send money right away because the unit is in high demand. Pressure is their main tactic. Often the unit will be priced below market. Beware of all listings that seem too good to be true. When in doubt slow down.
- If you are the person renting your room watch out for someone sending too much money "accidentally" and asking for reimbursement before you discover that their payment is fraudulent.
For more information on scams and how to protect yourself visit Competition Bureau Canada.
Housing fraud must be reported in the jurisdiction where you were defrauded. Even if the fraudulent apartment was said to be in Kingston the crime happened in your home town, province or country – wherever you contacted the scammer from.