Nova Scotia

Watch for these 4 red flags when apartment hunting

Halifax Regional Police are warning apartment hunters to steer clear of clever scam artists posing as military personnel online.

Steer clear of clever scam artists posing as military personnel online, Halifax Regional Police say

Police say if an offer looks too good to be true, it's usually the case. (Shutterstock)

Halifax Regional Police are warning apartment hunters to steer clear of clever scam artists posing as military personnel online. 

Watch for "posts from someone in the military looking for a renter to take care of a residence while away overseas, gone away for deployment or anything like that," said Det. David Comer with the integrated financial crime unit.

More ads like this will start popping up on Kijiji and Craigslist in the next couple of weeks, he said, particularly as university students return to the Halifax and are looking for last-minute rentals.

The ads are aimed at convincing would-be renters to send a damage deposit or rent. The problem is there's no apartment.

Here are some ways to avoid falling victim.

1. Photos or verbal agreements

If a landlord or owner is unavailable to show the property, Comer said that's reason to be wary. Potential renters should be concerned if there are only photos or verbal agreements in place.

Sending deposits without actually seeing the property and signing a lease agreement in person is never a good idea.

According to a warning on Kijiji, if users follow this rule of thumb and meet up with the person face to face, most scams can be avoided. 

2. Low prices in expensive areas

Price is also something to scrutinize.

Colin Sword, president of Halifax Quality Homes, a rental and leasing agency, said it's important to do your homework and know the average price range for apartments in the area.

"If you're looking at a nice building downtown like the Trillium, for example, and somebody is claiming they have an apartment in there available at $1,000, you know it's wrong," said Sword.

"Any building in the downtown area that is listed for under $1,000, you probably should be suspicious."

3. Duplicate ads

Look for duplicate ads with varying prices. Imposters can copy and paste somebody else's listing and claim it as their own.

"Over the years we've had several instances of people who are using our pictures from property we have listed on our website," said Sword.

"Someone pretends to be the landlord and tries to get people to rent it and send them money."

4. Overeager landlord

Be on the lookout for an overeager landlord trying to lease an apartment to you. A legitimate property owner will do some typical screening and ask questions to ensure renters are credit worthy.

At the same time, Sword said, tenants should also do due diligence.

"Make sure you're dealing with a legitimate company or person. Do some investigating. When it comes right down to it, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is." 

What to do if you do get scammed?

There are steps to take if you do fall victim to a scam.

Comer suggests contacting the online reselling platform and police.

"The sooner the ad is reported the faster we can get the investigation rolling and start the process of tracking down the people responsible," he said.