How to Avoid Rental Fraud

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In consultation with Victims Services, the Community Advocacy Office has put together the following resource on rental fraud. In this document, you will learn about some common types of rental fraud and information about who to call if you believe you are a victim of rental fraud. If you have more questions or would like to connect with a Community Advocate, please contact us at 613-267-6428 x29 or


Rental Fraud & How to Avoid It

Rental fraud is more common than you might think. Financial fraud can exact a heavy emotional toll on its victims; common feelings include anger, regret, embarrassment, sadness, shame, guilt, confusion, depression, and stress. It is important to realize that the blame belongs to the perpetrator, not the victim. Here are some common scams, warning signs, and tips on how to avoid and deal with fraud.

7 Top Rental Housing Scams

#1 Phantom Rentals: An ad for a place that does not exist or is not for rent. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.

#2 Hijacked Ads: A fake landlord posts an ad for a real place, with altered contact information.

#3 Already Rented: A landlord uses an ad to collect deposits or application fees for a place already rented.

#4 Missing Amenities: An ad for a real place that lists amenities it does not have (to get a higher rent).

#5 Bait-and-Switch: The landlord tries to get you to sign a lease or collect a deposit for a different property than the one advertised.

#6 Suspicious Money Requests: You are asked to send money when you haven’t seen the apartment or met anyone, to pay an illegal security or holding deposit, a full year’s worth of rent, or other upfront fees.

#7 Identity Theft: An ad that is really a trick to get you to hand over confidential info such as a Social Insurance Number (SIN) or banking information.

Warning Signs

  • Ads that are “too good to be true,” for example: very low rent, great amenities, and sought after neighbourhoods. Check other listings in the general area to get an idea of of the current market rates for comparison.
  • You're asked to leave a deposit without any formal rental agreement or lease in place. Always request a lease or contract and review it thoroughly.
  • When you ask about the apartment, you get an email that sends you to a website asking for personal or financial information.
  • You’re asked for money right away (security deposit, first month’s rent etc.), and the landlord tries to rush you by claiming other people are interested.
  • You're asked to send a security deposit or personal information to a landlord outside the country; never do business with an overseas landlord unless you have personally verified their identity and ensured that they own the apartment advertised.
  • You're offered a unit but no one does a background check on you.
  • Ads that show pictures of the outside of the property only, or pictures that don't match the address of the actual property. Make sure to see the apartment in person, or use the internet to find photos and research the address. If it is a new development, contact the builder to confirm ownership.
  • The landlord only wants to communicate via e-mail. Dealing locally is best and it is safest to meet in person and face to face. Schedule a viewing when the landlord will be present.
  • The landlord wants a deposit or rent payments sent using Western Union or MoneyGram, which are popular for scams because they are instant, untraceable, and global. Requests to wire money are sure signs of scams, and sending money in any form overseas will likely result in losing all of it.
  • Be sure to know your rights as a tenant. Consult your provincial or territorial department or ministry of housing.

Who to Contact if you have been Victimized

  • Local Police: The police will make a report, provide helpful referrals, and warn the public. Smiths Falls Police Service: 613-283-0357. Ontario Provincial Police 1-888-310-1122.
  • The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC):  1-888-495-8501 or through CAFC’s Fraud Reporting System.
  • Your Bank or Financial Institution: If you suspect that someone has gained access to your bank accounts or credit cards, contact your bank immediately and freeze the accounts.
  • Equifax or TransUnion: They can monitor your credit file and put a “fraud alert” on your file.
  • The Competition Bureau’s Information Centre: For helpful resources for avoiding scams; 1-800-348-5358.
  • Consumer Protection Ontario: An awareness program from Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.


Sources: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (;; Government of Canada, Competition Bureau Canada (; Student Life, University of Toronto (; Victims Services Ontario.