Montreal police are warning people to take precautions after a wave of thefts and cases of vandalism at apartments rented online. 

Police say they have received at least 50 complaints from people who rented out their apartments online through services such as Airbnb and had their apartments ransacked.

Most were concentrated in the downtown area. 

"Everything can be stolen from clothes to computers, TVs ... They've walked out sometimes with furniture," said Montreal police Lt. Det. Ann Hackett.

"We've also seen doors smashed, walls smashed, toilets are blocked. Everything is in shambles when people come back."

Thieves and vandals often hack online profiles on rental sites and pose as legitimate renters, sometimes uploading their own picture, and using credit card information from the stolen profiles, she said.

"These sites don't have time to see the fraud before it happens, because often it's last-minute rentals," said Hackett, who advises people to always meet renters in person to verify their identity and make sure they're using their own credit card. 

Hackett said police have several suspects and not all of the cases appear to be connected. 

Police are asking people who rent their apartments online to take certain precautions: 

  • Refuse to take same-day reservations
  • Require renters to present themselves with picture ID and the credit card used to make the reservation
  • Take a screen grab of the renter's online account
  • Meet the renter in person, instead of leaving a key or leaving the door unlocked
  • Avoid leaving valuables in the home
  • Install security cameras around the residence
  • Tell neighbours about the rental and ask them to keep an eye out for abnormal activity

Police are asking anyone with information about one of these robberies or vandalism cases to contact Info-Crime Montreal