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Halifax a hotspot for rental scams says Better Business Bureau

Peter Moorhouse said our competitive market pressures renters to quickly commit to a listing
(stock photo)

Halifax's low vacancy rate and high student population make it a hotspot for rental scams.

That's according to the president and CEO for Atlantic Canada's Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Peter Moorhouse said our competitive market pressures renters to quickly commit to a listing, making it an ideal environment for fraudsters.

"Particularly with international students or students coming to Halifax from other parts of North America, that kind of scenario presents lot of risk for this scam," he told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show. "What will happen is the person impersonating a landlord will demand that money upfront, even if the would-be renter isn't there to see the property."

A BBB study shows those between the ages of 19 and 29 are 42 per cent more likely to fall victim to a rental scam.

Moorhouse said if a listing looks too good to be true, it probably is.

"If you're looking at this beautiful, amazing looking rental property with a price that seems too low, the warning signs should be going off," he explained.

"And if the supposed landlord is not able to meet with you in person, only communicates by email or text, won't actually be able to show you the property for whatever reason they make up, again the warning signs should be going off."

Another red flag is being asked to send or wire money before you've had a chance to check out the place in person.

It's quite easy for scammers to copy and paste information from properties that are actually for sale or rent and steal the photos to create their own fake listing.

"Our investigator interviewed folks from Kijiji and they're working really hard on their end to crack down on this, implementing tools to automatically identify rental listings that may be bogus," said Moorhouse.

He said real landlords can take their own measures lower the risk of having fraudsters steal their listings.

"If you're taking pictures of rental properties you have to offer, put some sort of a watermark across them, the address or the name of your rental company, something like that that will prevent a scammer from using those photos to dupe other people."

The BBB lists the following red flags renters should be looking out for:

  • The owner is out of town, and you cannot see the unit in person before sending money.
  • There is a "for sale" sign in the yard.
  • The alleged owner or property manager wants money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or a gift card. No legitimate business gets paid this way.
  • The rent advertised is well below market rates.

The organization recommends those searching for an apartment copy the photos in the post and use Google Image Search or to check for multiple listings.

"Also search using an interesting phrase in the description and search for the address of the unit," it said.

"If you see the unit in person, check ID and make sure you are dealing with the real property owner or manager."


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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