Huntsville OPP are investigating a cottage rental scam where fraudsters advertise a cottage online but never deliver on the stay.
This type of scam has been around for the last five or six years, says OPP Const. Jeff Handsor. “It goes away for a little bit and now it’s popped up again.”
According to Handsor, the scammer will list the rental on sites such as Kijiji, where the hosts and properties aren’t vetted. The listings use pictures, descriptions, and a real address, giving the impression it’s legitimate.
The scammer then asks the victim to e-transfer the payment for the rental. However, when the victim arrives at the property, they encounter the real owner who is unaware that their property is being advertised online. Here’s how you can report a scam.
Considering the anonymous nature of sites such as Kijiji, once the money has been paid, it can be difficult to get back.
This kind of scam is happening all across Ontario, Handsor says, and people need to be wary when booking rentals. If you are renting a cottage through a site such as Kijiji, before you pay, visit the property with a friend and meet the owner, he advises. This is the most direct way to find out if the cottage is actually for rent.
When paying for the rental, “don’t send your cash through e-transfer or direct deposit into a bank account,” Handsor warns. Ideally, the site you’re booking through has its own secure payment method where your money is accounted for and tracked, or, alternatively, pay the owner when you arrive at the property.
If you are planning to rent a cottage, Handsor says you should rent through a business that specializes in cottage rentals. They’re less likely to scam you as their business reputation is on the line.
Finally, “trust your instincts,” Handsor says. “If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably not true.”