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Kelowna News

Police warn renters some online ads are too good to be true

Const. Kris Clark, spokesperson for the RCMP.

Online scammers know the prospect of a bargain can be tough to resist. This is the tactic being used in recent cases of classified ad scams in Kelowna.

Police say there have been a number of fraudulent listings targeting prospective renters looking for affordable accomodations. RCMP Const. Kris Clark says, "we've been hit at least a couple times here recently," and the trend is growing outside Kelowna, in the Lower Mainland, Ontario and in the United States.

Typically, scammers will work through email correspondence, Clark says.

In two local cases a potential tenant received an email full of spelling errors and improper capitalization. In another case the supposed landlord was asking the tenant to list their State and Zip Code. One individual actually found their own home featured in a listing. 

The scammers typically get the individual to wire them money for a rental deposit.

While it's easier to target people apartment-hunting from out of town, it's just as easy for scammers to target people looking for a bargain. The desire to find a great place in a great location for the cheapest price can often override good judgement, Clark says.

Police are aware these types of fraudulent crimes are on the rise, but are limited in their ability to investigate.

Prosecution is rare, Clark says.

"To extradite someone is very, very costly," he says and it takes a lot of man power. Investigating even a simple fraud will require police to go beyond a standard search warrant to obtain a judicial authorization.

"To actually search something like bank records, to write a simple authorization can take a matter of days... it's a very labour intensive process," he says.

In some cases it's worth the trouble.

"If it's millions of dollars it's probably going to be sought," he says, but if it's just a $1,200 scam it's difficult to justify spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the investigation. 

"It comes down to public interest... if it's millions of dollars the interest is there, but a one time incident of $1,000 is harder to justifty to taxpayers." 

Some tips to avoid being scammed:
Is the price too good to be true? Check rental rates in the area as fraudsters will often try to ensnare multiple victims with unbelievably low prices.
Are they the owner or property manager? Be sure to view the rental with the property manager or owner.
Are they just communicating with you via email? Beware if they don’t want to talk to you on the phone.
Exercise extreme caution before wiring deposits or rent payments using a money wiring service, especially to foreign countries. Money wiring services are very popular for internet scams.
Do not, under any circumstances, give out personal information such as your Social Insurance Number, bank account, or credit card numbers.
Ask the neighbours about the landowner and history of the property. Neighbours are a great source of information regarding the owner and property and can often confirm their identity.

For more information on frauds and scams, go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website. http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at jwhittet@infotelnews.ca or call (250)718-0428.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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