The occurrence of real estate agent impersonators, homes sold without the homeowners’ consent, and apartments rented out by scammers are all on the rise in Toronto.
Adrian and Ariel offer tips on spotting suspicious activities and ways to protect yourself and your property from scam artists.
Rental Fraud in Toronto
There have been several cases of real estate fraud in Toronto. Most notably, an instance in January 2022 where a property was sold by people who didn’t own it while the real owners were out of the country.
A man and a woman impersonated the owner, hired a legitimate real estate agent, and listed the property for sale.
You’re probably wondering how something like this could happen, but according to this Global News article, it may be more common than you think.
If the wrong person gets access to the land registry system, they can transfer the title from the real homeowners to fake ones in minutes. Of course, this is illegal, but in this particular case, the swindlers are still at large, and the scam wasn’t discovered until the homeowners returned and realized their house had been sold.
In this scenario, it’s on the listing real estate agent to do their due diligence. Ask qualifying questions that only a homeowner would know, such as when did you buy the property, how much did you pay for it, and who’s on the title? Asking those three simple questions in person would likely throw a fraudster off their game.
This CTV News article offers more tips on how to avoid real estate fraud.
There was another scheme where a man illegally rented apartments in Toronto that were not his to rent.
What a lot of people may not realize is that there are legal loopholes that allow people to run fraudulent rental rackets. These scammers will legitimately rent an Airbnb property and then show it as a rental property to prospective renters. They have the key and can pass it over once they have the first and last month’s rent.
One fraudster was charged with 14 counts, which added up to a lot of money. This Global News article tells the story of a New Zealand couple roused by the Toronto police and booted out in the middle of the night from a Front Street West apartment after paying more than $4,000 to a fake rental company.
How Tenants and Landlords Can Avoid Getting Scammed
- If you’re a renter, lease a place listed with a brokerage and use a real estate agent. That’s right; not only can renters hire an agent, but it’s free of charge!
- Never rent without seeing the property.
- Don’t use cash for deposits.
- Be leery of too-good-to-be-true rental rates.
- Use SingleKey, Equifax, or other credit reporting system to do a background check
- If you’re a landlord, confirm your tenant’s identification, references, etc.
- Be mindful when sharing personal and sensitive information.