House keys

The Better Business Bureau is warning students seeking accommodation to watch out for online rental scams. (Shutterstock)

The Better Business Bureau is warning students heading back to school this fall to watch out for scammers trying to take advantage of their frantic search for cheap accommodation.

One common scam is for fraudsters to post fake ads for accommodation online, and then demand the students secure the room by sending them cash or a money order, even before they see it.

"They just use that line, 'You have to secure the property now if you want it, because we have a line of people coming in,'" says Evan Kelly with the Better Business Bureau in B.C.

"So people have that sense of urgency and send in their money, whether it be money or cash or something like that. We're just saying, don't do that."

That's because once the students arrive to move in, they can discover the property does not exist, or is rented to someone else and not even owned by the person who took their deposit.

The BBB has issued the following list of several steps anyone can take before handing over their cash:

  • "Meet the person in the ad and view the property first.
  • Ask neighbours about the landlord and history of the property.
  • Be wary of a landlord who is very eager to rent to you.
  • Check address using Google Street view so that ad photos match up.
  • SIN, bank account numbers and credit card numbers are not required to rent a place.
  • Be wary of using cash to secure a rental, if you do, get a receipt.
  • Do not feel pressured to hand over your money if you cannot view the property.
  • Never wire money to 'secure your interest.'
  • Pay no attention to ads or rentees who claim to be out of the country.
  • There are websites like or that record a landlord's address and bank information. This can provide more assurances than using Craigslist and Kijiji whose listings are not vetted prior to posting.
  • Flag the posting as scam with the website's administrator and contact police or (RCMP phone line) so they can keep track of cases.
  • Go to to find rental company listings and read the business reviews."