Canadian BBB finds major fraud in online rentals



Study by BBB shows ‘widespread’ fraud in online rental market

By Adelle Loiselle
December 27, 2019

An investigative study by the Better Business Bureau found more than five million consumers lost money in rental or traveller online listings.

It wants consumers to ask themselves if the right space, the right location, and the right price seems too good to be true, is it? Or will they arrive to find their money gone and no place to stay?

The study called “Is That Rental Listing Real?” said 85 per cent of consumers who come across a fake rental listing do not fall for them, but the volume of rental scams is staggering.

Study at

It found scams on Kijiji and Facebook Market Place, along with Airbnb, VRBO, and These companies have warned users about potential fraud and have taken steps to prevent it.

Of those who did fall for a scam, 43 per cent paid and never got their money back.

Most commonly, it said fraudsters copy a photo and description of a property, post it online with their own contact information, and try to get a deposit and first month’s rent. The scammer may only communicate via text or email and claim to be out of the country so they can not show the property.

Once the money is sent, the lister disappears.

“Consumers shouldn’t rush into paying upfront fees for rental housing sight-unseen,” said BBB Western Ontario CEO Dan Meidinger. “Take time to verify the details of the listing.”

A less common form of the scam has victims buy an online directory of homes supposedly for rent, or signing up for credit monitoring. The service comes with recurring monthly charges.

BBB Scam Tracker received more than 1,300 reports of rental fraud between 2016 and 2019.

BBB said Nigerian criminal gangs are often responsible for rental scams.

It recommended some steps to prevent fraud. Rental owners use a watermarked photo for rental postings, websites should make extra effort to screen postings for fraud, and consumers should report scams when they see them.

If you are a victim, file a report with local police, file a complaint with BBB, and contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.


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Amazing, isn't it?