Every summer and fall we see them. Great affordable appartments up for rent in ski towns being advertised on social media.
And every year, desperate seasonal workers hand over their hard-earned money to someone who doesn’t own the property. Rental scammers prey on people’s dreams of epic seasons in famous ski resorts. Rental scams work because desperate people become irrational, and fail to spot the warning signs. Rental scammers target overseas people.
Here’s a list of things seasonal workers should know before signing leases, and handing over thousands of dollars in rent and security deposits.
1. In towns like Whistler, Banff, Vail, Breckenridge, and Jackson, it’s so much easier for landlords to rent to desperate locals than internationals.
2. If landlords in towns with chronic housing problems put up a “house for rent” ad online, they get bombarded with hundreds of DMs, Emails, phone calls requesting inspections. In other words, why would they bother dealing with that?
3. Scammers will post a “house for rent” ad up on social media and immediately turn off the comments so people can’t call out the scam. They want you to PM them where the conversation is private. See below.
4. Scammers will post photos of great looking properties that don’t look like seasonal worker appartments (see above). Before responding to any ad do a reverse image search on google. . It’s amazing how many times those room for rent images are just taken from random Airbnb properties.
5. Also reverse image search the advertiser’s social media profile image. (Hint, you might need to take a screen shot of it). Their profile pics are often just random advertising catalogue photos. Think two good looking boomers in nice ski gear on a mountain top.
6. Check how long the advertiser has been a member of the social media group. If they have recently joined, that’s a bad sign. On Facebook, you can check how many times an advertiser has contributed to group chats.
6B. Check what other Facebook groups advertisers belong to. A recent person with a house for rent in Banff was also a member of house rental groups in Whistler, Fernie and Silverstar. Sometimes they get lazy and use the same house photos on multiple house rental Facebook groups.
7. Some Scammers will start PM chats with people who have posted “room wanted” ads. Scammers typically respond to every room wanted add with PMs, funnelling as many potential targets into their system.
8. Scammers will typically have excuses why they can’t do a video walkthrough of “their” property. They are out of town. It’s getting painted, there’s tenants in it. blah blah blah. If they do agree to a video walk through, make them start it out in the street and watch them unlock the door. Cross reference the outside of the house with Google Street view, so you know they aren’t just doing a walk through of a random apartment. If in doubt ask them to show you the view out the windows.
9. Tell any potential landlord you will be recording the video walk though. The last thing any scammer wants is video evidence of them running scams. 9a. Ask the potential landlord to take a photo of themselves holding their drivers licence. If they won’t do this it’s a scam.
10. Most local jurisdictions will allow potential renters to do a title search of the property so you can check the owner’s name. It typically costs 50 odd dollars.
11. Scammers prefer 1-2 bedroom units so they are dealing with fewer people who are less likely to question the deal.
12. If you can’t view a property and you have a friend in town, get them to do it.
13. Scammers will often just bombard a social media site with cut and paste links to their shonky websites or requesting the house hunters PM them.
14. We are keeping a close eye on a potential new scam that involves people teaming up in large groups to secure a big property. Firstly this rarely works, but it will also require wannabe renters to send a deposit payments to a group leader. Yes this could be a case of rookie stupidity, but it could be something nefarious. either way, don’t send any money to people you don’t know living in different countries. If it goes pear-shaped, you’re not getting your money back.
15. If you have been given a physical address of the property go knock on the door and ask any existing tenants the score. Often they will have a signed long term lease and the place isn’t actually on the market.
16. Scammers will often play the religious card, giving themselves titles like Reverend and Father, and signing off correspondents with lots of “God Blesses” and “Bless yous”
17. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If you see a potential rental scam ad, please feel free to post this article.
Good luck everyone, and if you have any questions, shoot me through an email on [email protected]