Coquitlam Mounties warn of rental scams after would-be tenants lose deposits

Moving boxes are seen in this stock image. (Shutterstock)

Multiple rental scams in Coquitlam prompted a warning from RCMP Tuesday after two would-be tenants lost deposits on fake listings.

Mounties said the incidents were reported to them over the past two months, and both included fake ads for a rental property posted online.

In one instance, the victim sent a deposit and half a month's rent through e-transfer to a person who posted an ad. They sent the money without viewing the rental suite.

When the victim went to the property on her move-in date, police said, she realized the unit wasn't actually for rent so she contacted the RCMP.

In the second incident, the victim met a suspect outside of the alleged rental unit after communicating with them online. Police said the suspect "made up an excuse about how he could not show the suite and provided a professional looking contract for the victim to sign."

That victim then handed over a damage deposit in cash before realizing the promised rental was actually a scam.

Metro Vancouver residents are facing an extremely tight rental market. A recently-published forecast from Rentals.ca said renters across Metro Vancouver are unlikely to see a break any time in 2022. In Vancouver, the average rent was $2,925 in April, up 29.9 per cent from the same time last year when it was $2,331, according to the report. 

"In an extremely competitive rental market, these fraudsters are taking advantage of renters' need to secure accommodation," Cpl. Paige Kuz said in a news release.

"Fraudsters can be very convincing, but as a renter, prior to any money changing hands, there are some precautionary steps you can take to protect yourself from falling victim to scams such as this."

Some of those steps, police said, include scheduling a showing and visiting the address in person; requesting a lease and reviewing it closely; and searching for the posted rental address online to make sure there aren't duplicates. Police also recommend being wary of renters requesting payment in cryptocurrency or gift cards.

Anyone who thinks they were the victim of a scam should call the Coquitlam RCMP non-emergency line at 604-945-1550. Those who encounter a scam but aren't victims should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. 

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