British Columbia

Back-to-school house hunters at risk of rental scams, warns Better Business Bureau

Evan Kelly of the Better Business Bureau of B.C. says students looking to find last minute housing can fall prey to rental scams.

The Better Business Bureau says it's important students looking for housing be aware of potential scams

One of many no vacancy apartments in Vancouver's West End. (David Horemans/CBC)

The Better Business Bureau of B.C. is reminding students to watch out for scams as they look for last minute accommodations for back to school.

 Evan Kelly, a senior communications manager with the Better Business Bureau, says the low rental stock across the province, combined with students looking for last minute housing is the perfect combination for scam artists.

"There's that sense of urgency that scammers like to prey upon," Kelly said.

"The concern is that students coming in from out of town are going to be willing to take more of a risk when it comes to securing a place."

Kelly says that at first glance, the ads will looks the same. He says fraudsters often use details and photos from legitimate ads and then post them with alternate contact information.

Watch out for red flags

Kelly warns that if the ad looks too good to be true, it probably is. For instance, if the rent is listed for far below market value, it's probably not legitimate.

He also says people who run rental scams often only communicate through text and email, and in many cases, ask for a wire transfer before the property is seen.

"They're going to do things like get you to pay for six months upfront and get a month free," he said.

"These kinds of things that really entice someone to part with their money quickly."

Do the research

A rule of thumb to follow, Kelly says, is never send money to a person you've never met.

To avoid falling for a scam, he recommends looking at the property through Google Street View, knocking on the neighbours' doors to ask about the property and insisting you see the place before you give a deposit.

He also cautions that if you do send money via wire transfer, it may be lost forever,

"If you do wire money through something like Western Union — or even gift cards —  that money's pretty much gone and there's not much you can do about it."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops.

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