Saskatoon police are warning the public to beware of online apartment scams.
And one common scam, where a picture of an apartment is posted online and an attractive rent offered, is getting a lot of attention.
In these cases, police say, the victim is asked to wire a deposit to the "owner" only to find out later he or she was victim of a fraud.
In Saskatoon, the scam is well-established. It recently surfaced in a fake ad that claimed to represent The Tower at Five Corners.
It’s one of the city’s better-known residential buildings, in one of the most popular neighbourhoods. It’s home to condos, some with spectacular river views.
One fake online rental ad for a two-bedroom unit — calling it the best location in Saskatoon — includes details and photos of the condo and is listed for $755 a month.
"The description of the building, the address of the building is all accurate so it would be very difficult to tell that this property is legitimate or not," said Kent Nicholson, property manager with Colliers McClocklin, the company that manages the property.
Nicholson noted the price would be a red flag — it's about half the usual rental rate.
Police say it’s a classic internet scam where fraudsters find pictures of properties online and use them for the fake ads.
They'll say they're out of the country and ask that the deposit be wired to them — a method that’s makes it hard to trace the money later.
In the case of the fake Tower at Five Corners ad, when a CBC reporter made inquiries, the contact person claimed to be in the United Kingdom.
Apartment hunters should keep their eyes open when they look for properties online, said Alyson Edwards, spokeswomen with the Saskatoon Police Service.
"If you're not able to see the property before you put a security deposit down, that should be a clear sign that something is not right about the deal," he said.
Police say there's been a spike in the number of reports of Internet rental scams, and the fraudsters are almost impossible to track down.
Nicholson says renters can use property management companies like his to help find units and avoid scams.
People who look online should remember that if the ad looks too good to be true, it probably is, he said.