Summer tends to be moving time here in Montreal, as it is elsewhere. This year, I have decided to move, and thought it would be an opportune time to share a warning about some scams that are related to this seemingly harmless activity.

First off is the 'Too good to be true' Craigslist posting (or Kijiji, or any other public listings site!). Last time I moved, I went searching on CL for a new place, as so many do. I found a nice listing, and emailed the purported landlord. I got an email back from someone claiming to be on missionary work in Africa, and if I would just send him or her some money, the place was mine; I could pick up the key when the cheque cleared.

I researched a bit further, and found that what the scammers had done was re-post a previous listing on CL from a few weeks past, dropping the price enough to make the offer seem great, but yet remain credible. A call to the landlord and an email to Craigslist Abuse had the listing and a few others taken down.

Scam two: Advance Fee Fraud – I am now subletting my place, and today, a very nice lady ostensibly in Benin is offering to send me money to reserve my flat, sight unseen. No doubt, it will be a cheque, which I would deposit. Then, complications will arise, she will ask for her money back, less a fee for the hassle. The cheque would take some time to clear, but by then, the money would be safely in the hands of the scammers.

Bottom line: Never rent an apartment or house from someone who isn't present to show you around, and pay with a cheque noting the address, and the date of the first month of rental. Here in Quebec, we have government issued lease forms available everywhere, always use them, and make sure the person renting has the authority to do so. Otherwise, come moving day, you may find yourself without a place to live.

Never pay out money from cheques you receive before your bank has had time to clear the payment, and are 100% willing to state the transaction is legitimate. Otherwise, you will find yourself on the hook for the money.

As always, the old saw 'if it seems too good to be true, it probably is' applies. Remain skeptical, especially in your online dealings.

Neil Schwartzman
Executive Director, CAUCE