Online buy and sell websites are becoming a common "storefront" for many citizens' shopping experiences. However, this innovative and cost-saving social experience comes with many risks.
The online sale of goods/services is the most common type of online fraud in Edmonton and just over the span of 2017, Edmonton victims lost $ 1,405,596.55 to online scams. Online scams are growing. Learn more about online frauds.
Online Purchase Safety Tips
Meeting Safety Tips:
- The Edmonton Police Service does not have designated spots in our parking lots for internet meetings. If you do come to a police station to make an online purchase exchange, please remember to still practice these safety tips - do not put yourself under a false sense of security! Our stations are not open 24/7, our officers are not monitoring the parking lots, and we cannot guarantee that an officer would be able to respond if something goes awry.
Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home.
Have someone come with you when you meet. If you cannot arrange for someone to come with you, let friends or family know where you are going, what time you're meeting, and all the details about who you are meeting. Let your contact know that everything is okay.
- Ask the buyer for photo ID. Take a photo of it for your reference.
Buying or selling a vehicle? Offer to meet at an automotive garage where the vehicle's quality can be assured, instead of offering a test drive.
Buying Safety Tips:
- Do not disclose to the seller how you will be paying if it's not necessary. If the seller is aware that you will be arriving with a large quantity of cash, it is an excellent opportunity for a personal robbery to take place.
Obtain a bill of sale and verify the seller's identity through photo ID. Inform the seller that you want this before meeting, this will deter those selling illegitimate property from selling the property.
Check the serial number on CPIC to determine if it is stolen. This can be accessed by the public here.
Ask the seller why they are selling the property.
- For buyers and sellers: Take screenshots of the advertisements, the advertisement ID number, the seller's contact information, and all communications.
IMPORTANT: If you turn a blind eye to obvious clues that the property is stolen but buy it anyway, you can be found to be willfully blind to the fact that the property is stolen and you may be criminally charged.
If you locate property being sold that you believe to be stolen, report it to police.
- Learn more on protecting your property by recording serial numbers.
- Buying a used vehicle from someone online? Find out how to avoid buying a stolen vehicle.
- See our Online Buyer Beware Campaign for more tips
Some con artists will go to great lengths to appear legitimate, staging elaborate charades to dupe landlords and renters. They can be organized and coordinated with the fraudsters using false identities. Once they have your money they disappear.
There are 2 types of rental frauds and scams:
- Fraudulent Properties for Rent
- Fraudulent Renters looking for Property to Rent.
Fraudulent Properties for Rent
There are 2 ways a rental property could be fraudulent;
- The property is real and exists however the rental property offered does not belong to the fraudster.
- The rental property doesn't exist.
Check the facts – always verify information
If you can see if you can chat with someone who has rented from the same person or company in the past.
- Conduct an internet search on the property to see who may live there as well as to determine if there are additional rental adds for the same property.
- Check the place out if you can. It's always a good idea to physically see a property before any money changes hands.
- Fraudsters prey on people who are in a bind and in a hurry to find a place to rent as emotions can make people more vulnerable.\
- Ads for apartments in big cities such as Edmonton with rents significantly below market value are almost always lures used by scam artists.
- Check other listings in the general area and see what the going rates for apartments are before responding.
- Never give your social security number, even if it's just to fill out an application.
- Under no circumstances should you do business with an overseas landlord unless you have personally verified their identity and that they actually own the apartment advertised.
- Deal locally in person and face to face.
- Be wary if the prospective landlord only wants to communicate via e-mail.
- Be more wary if the landlord is currently out of the country or resides overseas or far from where the apartment is located.
- Be extremely wary if the landlord flat out refuses to talk on the phone or claims they cannot talk on the phone.
- Scan any attachments from landlords with anti-virus software before opening. One of the latest scams involves attachments contains a virus that can fool your Web browser to make it appear as though you're going to a legitimate site but in fact are being sent to a site controlled by the scammer.
- Keep your guard up, use your common sense and trust your instincts.
- If something feels wrong with a listing, the application process feels rushed, or the whole experience just seems to good to be true, it may be wise not to pursue it.
Keep your cash close
- Scammers will almost always ask for money up front, like a security deposit or first and last month's rent. If you're not sure about where it's going, don't send it. Money sent via wire service or e-transfers will be as good as gone.
- Whenever possible, try to make payments with a credit card.
- Exercise extreme caution before wiring deposits or rent payments using Western Union or MoneyGram, especially to foreign countries. Sending money in any form overseas will likely result in losing all of it. Western Union and MoneyGram are very popular for Internet scams because the funds are available instantly, untraceably and worldwide.
- If a renter "dodges your questions or keeps emphasizing how it's such a good deal and you need to hand over the money ... W-A-L-K away.
- If the landlord wants a higher security deposit than what's required by law, or if upfront fees seem excessive to you, it could be a sign that the landlord wants to take your money and run.
Fraudulent Renters looking for Property to Rent
Fraudulent renters are people who come in and ask to be shown an apartment or people who do not live in the rental area send email messages asking to rent the property when they have no intention of renting.
There are 2 ways the fraudulent renter can scam you:
- They say they are moving in but they plan to use it as a rental property themselves.
- They send a fraudulent form of payment and ask you to refund some of the money due to over payment.
Check the facts – always verify information
- Again check the facts, verify the personal information.
- If you will be going out of country and want to rent your property ensure you have someone local who you know and trust to keep an eye on your property.
- If the ‘alleged’ borrower lives out of country do not give them your banking information. Have them wire service or e-transfer the money to an email address that is set up specifically for this purpose and not linked to your personal email.
- When you see that the money has been deposited in your bank account have your bank verify that the funds are actually in your bank account.
- Never return funds that are deposited as an overpayment. Tell the ‘renter’ you will apply it to their upcoming rent.
- Have them wire the money through Western Union or MoneyGram.
What to do if you become the victim of a rental scam
Call the police. You should let your local law enforcement know if you've been scammed. If the police have already been investigating the same scam, then any information you can add about it will be very helpful.
Contact the publisher behind the ad. If the scam originated from an advertisement, let the publisher know about what happened.
File a complaint with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Look for a lesson and the red flags. No matter how it happened, you're not to blame for becoming the victim of a rental scam. But perhaps there was a warning sign you ignored or a way you could have been even more careful.
Share your story. Consider sharing your rental scam story. Writing about the experience (which you can do anonymously) can make you feel better. Plus, reading others' stories may help remind you that you're not alone. Rental scams happen to the best of us.