Unscrupulous scammers are taking advantage of the housing crisis to deceive tenants and landlords by creating fake ads for rental homes on the Internet.
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“Watching the ad, I said to myself what? But that’s impossible, my apartment is for sale not for rent,” says Audrey Miriault, still shocked to see the photos of her home.
Mme Mireault is actually an apartment owner in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve area of Montreal. Offered 3 1⁄2 for sale on the official website of a real estate broker.
The problem is that the thugs took the opportunity to steal photos of his residence and the information that came with them in a jiffy. Then they fabricated and posted a fake ad on the Marketplace platform, offering the apartment for rent.
Chantal Poirier’s photo
Calic Brunet, desperately searching for a place to live with him and his dog, is nearly taken over by three scammers’ leaflets.
Among the six victims of the fraudsters who are with them register Speaking, the method of work remains the same. Criminals require a cash deposit from tenants for a visit to the residence. Once you collect that amount, the scammers are gone.
“It was my friend who told me my condo was for rent for $1,300 in classifieds. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know. I find that really ridiculous. I wrote to my broker and he had never seen this before,” M. deplores.me Mirault.
His case is not unique. Newspaper Find dozens of messages on social networks where Internet users claim to be victims of these scams.
- Hear the interview with Catherine Loser, Community Organizer at FRAPRU
Calic Brunet, a renter in Shambly, knows something about it. A dog owner, says he has been unable to find a decent new apartment in the suburbs of Greater Montreal due to a housing crisis.
“I almost failed. Within a week, three people tried to defraud me. Advertisements for beautiful apartments accepting large huskies like mine are rare,” laments Mr. Brunet, 32,.
Catherine Pippen and her friend are close to falling into the trap of sending an $800 deposit to book an idyllic apartment in Saint Therese.
We had to send the money to Ria, which transfers the money abroad. When we got to the desk in the name of the owner, the clerk told us it was a scam and that we were the third person to pass the day to the same apartment.”me Pepin, agape the scam.
Take advantage of the distress
These scams show the desperation of the tenants, says Véronique Laflamme, a spokeswoman for the Popular Action Front for Urban Redevelopment (FRAPRU).
The housing crisis is worse than ever anywhere in Quebec. There, we see that people are taking advantage of human distress. Knowing how difficult it is to find housing, some are taking advantage of this for fraud. It’s done on the backs of the grabbed tenants really badly,” regrets Mme the flame.
The latter is also concerned about the fact that this type of fraud is likely to double in the coming weeks with the period of renewal or no residential rentals during the month of March.
False ads spread everywhere in Quebec, according to police
Scammers spreading false advertisements for rented housing are in the crosshairs of the police in all major cities in Quebec, they have learned that register.
Police forces in Greater Montreal, Gatineau, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and even Quebec City assert that residents on their land have been defrauded by offering money to fake landlords on the Internet.
“Yes, it is a scheme with which more events are known since 2020,” confirms Francois Boucher, a spokesperson for the Longueuil Cluster Police Department (SPAL).
In 2020, the police force recorded 41 real estate fraud incidents. In 2021, that number jumped to 73.
Even in the suburbs
This fraud first occurred this year in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
“This is the first time in 20 years that I have seen this fraud strategy with us. […] We had a few cases at the end of January and the beginning of February, not counting those who didn’t file a formal complaint. “We had to post a message on Facebook to warn people,” said Sgt. Jeremy Levesque, of the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu police department.
In Gatineau, police also confirm that they are seeing an escalation of fraud scheme related to online home rentals.
The current epidemiological context may prompt some people to agree to rent accommodation without even visiting it. This context also leads people to prefer online or email exchanges rather than in-person exchanges in order to limit contact. It is clear that scammers are trying to take advantage of this situation.
Picture taken from Facebook
Sylvie Gutras, realtor
As admitted by three real estate brokers in Quebec register He has been targeted by these criminals in recent weeks. Recently, Sylvie Gutra, real estate broker at Proprio Direct, received an unexpected call from Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
“Imagine that a lady sent a check for $1,200 to strangers to rent an apartment in McMasterville that I was putting up for sale. It was a fake ad. You haven’t even visited and the apartment isn’t for rent either,” says the lady.me Yotra, urges people looking for accommodation to be careful.
Like other brokers, she says she has never heard of this scam before.
How do you avoid falling into the trap?
- Do not give a deposit without meeting the owner or visiting the place of residence;
- Check the existence of the rental housing address on Google Map;
- Be suspicious if the owner says he’s outside
- Be on guard if the landlord asks for extra fees for all kinds of pretexts;
- question the rent if the landlord continues to delay the appointment;
Source: Longueuil Agglomeration Police Department