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Police advising of rental scams

Those looking to rent a property in Lethbridge are being advised to be cautious and make sure the offer is legitimate before sending any money.

According to the Lethbridge Police Service, between August and December, multiple reports were filed about a property rental scam. According to police, the alleged incidents involve victims who post on a Facebook group called “Pet-Friendly Homes for Rent in Lethbridge.”

In a release, police say “The victims were subsequently contacted privately by subjects claiming to have a property for rent leading to further communication via email. During the exchange of emails the ‘landlord’ claimed to be out of town and was unable to show the property, but provided a fake listing and upon receiving proof of employment, valid identification and references, sent a rental agreement directing the damage deposit and/or first month’s rent be sent via e-transfer.”

Officials say that when the alleged incident happened the money would be received and then the communication would stop.

According to police, rental scams are not uncommon and possible red flags to watch out for include prospective landlords who only communicate by email, are out of town or claim to live somewhere else, and refuse to talk on the phone or meet face-to-face. Other red flags include not being willing to show the property in person, wanting you to move without seeing the property, the rent being below market value or a too-good-to-be-true deal, or asking for a damage deposit or first month’s rent without a formal rental agreement. Those looking at different properties are also being advised to watch for listings that are vague or only show outside photos.

Recommended ways renters can protect themselves include viewing the property in person before sending money or signing anything, looking up the address and researching the property, and avoid etransfer. Other proactive things that can be done including reading the rental agreement or lease before signing it to make sure there are no suspicious terms and using dedicated rental apps.

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