Be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals. (Unsplash photo by Eric Gordon)

Shady dealings invade B.C. rental market, online sales

Advisory from the Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has warned consumers for years against doing business with callers and online companies that do not have a valid physical address.

Victim reports to BBB Scam Tracker, however, show that fraudsters have found a way to associate an address with their shady dealings, leading to the birth of even more scams.

Homeowners with multiple properties, as well as consumers and renters, need to be aware of several bogus scenarios that start with the address of a house, apartment, or property that is currently unoccupied.

Businesses Using Fake Addresses

Scammers will try to sell all kinds of counterfeit or non-existent products online. Common frauds involve the sale of high-dollar large items, such as RVs and cars, puppies, and brand name clothing, usually at steeply discounted (too-good-to-be-true) prices. They often use images harvested from legitimate websites to convince consumers the products exist. Especially since mid-March of this year, hundreds of fraudulent websites have been created to trick consumers who have increased their online shopping and activities during the pandemic. To give their scheme a more reputable appearance, scammers are adding a physical address to their websites or online product listings. Where do they get the address? They find a vacant property and simply add it to their listing. A quick web search may reveal that the ‘business address’ is located in a residential area, is a vacant place of business, or is the same address as a real, but unrelated business.

Rental Scams

Scam reports indicate that many con artists steal online rental listings – including the photos of the house or apartment and the property description – and create their own listings. To an unsuspecting consumer, they actually look legitimate, however they contain the scammer’s contact information instead of the property owner’s or rental agent’s. They may work out a deal with you over the phone, insisting that because of an emergency or circumstances outside of their control, they will not be able to meet you in person or show you the property. Many victim reports to BBB Scam Tracker share that the scammers use social distancing requirements and other COVID-19 related excuses to convince you to settle with simply driving by and looking through the window, or a virtual tour. They then send contracts by mail and email and ask for your deposit and first month’s rent. In return, they will mail you the keys to the property. The fraudsters will receive your payment, but no keys will be sent to you in return. In the end, the scammers disappear with your money and personal information.

Tips for owners of unoccupied houses:

Secure all windows and doors to your vacant property. It may seem obvious, but door and window locks can get overlooked – especially if you are busy with the hustle and bustle of a move. Keep intruders out by double checking the locks before you leave the property.

Maintain your property. A lawn and house that looks cared for will discourage scammers from targeting your property. If you live far away, hire a reputable lawn care company to come at regular intervals, set up automatic sprinklers, and keep the contact information for a trustworthy local handyman nearby.

Give an extra key to a friend or neighbour. Ask them to check up on your home periodically. This is also important in case someone needs to give a handyman or the police access to your property and is much safer than a lockbox.

Keep your alarm system up and running. This will be a huge protection for your unoccupied home. If you cannot afford the expense of an alarm system, it does not hurt to keep an alarm system sign posted in the front yard. You could also consider installing a surveillance doorbell that can show you who has been on the premises, in real time.

Put a hold on the mail. A mailbox overflowing with junk mail is a tell-tale sign no one is home and could attract scammers, thieves, and other suspicious individuals. Arrange to have your mail forwarded to your new address or a P.O. box.

Notice the warning signs. If you start receiving messages or mail directed to your vacant property with someone else’s name, or complaints regarding rental agreements or sales you did not make, it’s time to investigate the matter further.

Tips for renters:

Confirm the identity of the landlord. A legitimate landlord will not hesitate to show you their ID. You should be able to confirm they are the real property owner by checking the BC Registries and Online Services.

Know local rental prices. If someone offers you a great rental for an extremely low price, proceed with caution.

See the property first. Never sign a lease or make a deposit without seeing the property in person.

Never wire money to a stranger. Do not give in to a sob story. If you wire money to a stranger and they do not keep up their end of the deal, you will have no way to get your money back.

Watch out for red flags. If a property has a ‘for sale’ sign, but the ‘landlord’ wants to rent, something is up. It is also suspicious if you arrive to a property and find a broken lockbox.

Use the services of a reputable rental agency. This will give you an added layer of protection as you carry out your search.

British ColumbiaScams

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trail Smoke Eaters to host Cranbrook Bucks to open exhibition season

The BCHL announces a 100-plus game exhibition season

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Trail Kiwanians wrap up $10,000 hospital donation

The new KBRH emergency department opened its doors a few weeks ago

LeRoi Foundation donates to hospital in Trail

$5,000 comes to KBRH via Community Foundations Canada and ECSF

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Most Read