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Fraud - Apartment rental

Springtime is when many people start looking for an apartment. Some wrongdoers use this opportunity to scam future tenants, posting ads for apartments available for rent they do not own or simply do not exist. In view of an increase in the number of events, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) is therefore raising the public's awareness of this type of scam.


There are various scenarios used by the scammers, but the following are the most common ones:

  • A landlord needs to rent his apartment quickly at a good price not to lose any money. Because he is abroad at the time of the rental, he asks that a security deposit be sent to him via e-transfer.
  • The landlord does not want to waste his time and asks for an e-transfer deposit before the visit of the premises.
  • Scammers are soliciting people through social media to work from home to post rental housing ads on online sales platforms. Once a tenant contacts the advertiser, the advertiser redirects them to the false landlord’s email. The false landlord then asks to continue the process via a messaging application. To avoid unnecessary travel to visit the housing unit, the false landlord claims proof of purchase by photos of prepaid electronic coupons. Then, the false landlord sends an Internet link to the tenant to secure the funds. However, the link, in which the tenant enters the coupon PIN, is a trap. The funds are immediately withdrawn and the false landlord no longer responds to the tenant’s messages. Note that during this process, the tenant provides personal information and some have also had their accounts hacked.

No matter the pretence, money is always requested. On average, the scammers required that their victims provide one or two months' rent as a deposit, ranging from $500 to $1,200 depending on the apartment.

When they agree to pay the requested sum, tenants could be facing a potential scam. Be vigilant:

  • E-transfers can now be deposited without giving the answer to the security question using the “automatic deposit” function.
  • A trap link will allow a scammer to empty the funds of electronic coupons.

Although well-meaning owners may ask for a security deposit that is reimbursable on signing the lease, the Régie du logement is very clear on this matter: “A landlord cannot ask for a deposit, whether it is for the keys or for furniture.


Clues and prevention

  • The address of the apartment for rent should appear in the ad.
  • Tenants should be reachable by phone and not only by email.
  • When looking up the address of an apartment for rent, you can see if others have been victims of fraud.
  • When doing an image search of the pictures featured in an ad, you can see whether these pictures have already been posted on other sites. Scammers sometimes use pictures from other ads. Pictures that look too professional could be indicative of fraud.
    • To check if a picture is used by other websites, go to Google images, click on the camera and follow the instructions.
  • Enter the address of the building in Google Maps and compare certain architectural elements (shape of the windows, the presence of a balcony, type of front door, etc.)
  • Visit the apartment before signing the lease (not neighbouring or similar units).
  • When receiving a reply by email, the exchange should not seem generic.
  • Meeting the neighbours can be a good way to confirm whether the apartment is truly for rent and the landlord really is who he claims to be.
    • Consult the municipal property assessment roll to validate the owner’s name
  • If an ad looks too good to be true, it's probably a scam.


Classified sites post tips for preventing fraud and provide information on how to report wrongdoers using their platform. 

Anyone who may have been a victim of fraud is asked to go to their neighbourhood police station or to call 911 to file an official complaint.