The Barrie Police Service has become aware of a number of individuals in our area who have fallen victim to a common rental scam. 

In this scam, renters believe they are transferring money for a deposit or rental payments for a local home. However, they are actually transferring money to a fraudster who has no authority to rent the property in question and may not even be located in Canada. 

Fraudsters may claim to be associated with a legitimate property rental company or may use photos from a past or current real estate listing to appear on the up and up. 

How can you tell if a deal is really a deal, or a scam waiting to happen?

Our Crime Prevention Unit offers a few tips:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Never rent a property without visiting and seeing inside it first. In the midst of COVID restrictions, this can be challenging, Real estate associations recommend virtual showings, rather than in-person showings right now. Fraudsters have been known to use pictures from recent real estate listings to stand in for the scam rental, so a virtual showing that proves the landlord has access to the property is a good start.
  • Several of the frauds we’ve been made aware of have involved a property management company from overseas looking to rent a local home to a local tenant. This may be the case
  • Be wary of landlords who ask for large amounts of money up-front, or those who ask for cash, wire transfer, bitcoin, or other non-traditional payments.
  • When you do need to pay a deposit or first and last month’s rent, arrange to meet in a public place (such as the Police Headquarters parking lot) to exchange a cheque, not cash.
  • A lease agreement should list the property owner and the renter’s information and reflect the same property details and rental costs as discussed.
  • Be wary of landlords who don’t ask YOU for any personal information. If they are legitimate property owners, they will want to make sure that their tenants are going to treat their property with respect and pay rent promptly. 

If you have been a victim of a rental fraud or any other fraud, you can report it to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm) or contact the Barrie Police Service non-emergency line at 705-725-7025. If you find yourself in an emergency, always call 911.

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