COVID-19 has led to an increase in some scams that rely on a person’s fear of getting sick to get them to do business over the phone or online.
This one hits near me because it could easily have been me.
I rent a parking space in my building and I have never met the person who rents it to me. We did everything by phone and SMS.
Gwen did the same – only this time it stung her.
Gwen lives in a condominium in Burnaby that has terrible street parking so she went looking for a resident of the building who is not using her space. She saw a notice in the lobby saying there was space to rent for $ 60 a month.
“They just wanted to text it and I sure didn’t want to meet someone in person with raging COVID,” Gwen said. “I was just happy to finally be able to park in the secure underground parking lot.”
Except that one day she went to her vehicle and discovered that it was no longer there.
“I thought it had been stolen,” she said. “I finally tracked down the manager of the building and they told me it had been towed because I was not allowed to park there. I told them I had permission but then I got in touch with the owner and they said they didn’t rent him. Turns out I was paying money to a scammer who didn’t have permission to rent the parking space. It was really humiliating. I was also told that a few other tenants in the building had fallen for the same scam from someone using a burner phone.
If you don’t live in a condominium or apartment building with underground parking, I’m going to fill you in on a little crush for people who own units but don’t own a vehicle.
When you buy in a building, you are allocated a parking space (or two) with the purchase. Many people who do not use these locations then rent them out to people who are renting in the building or to other owners who may have a second vehicle.
It is great if the person is actually authorized to rent the place. I did a little more due diligence and got proof that the person renting me was the real owner of the place.
Police have discussed such scams in the past that prey on tenants, including a landlord responding to the tenant’s response to the ad and telling the tenant they live overseas. The landlord often reassures the tenant by providing them with copies of their passport and / or driver’s license (which are most often considered fraudulent). After the tenant transfers money via internet wire transfer, money order / wire transfer, Bitcoin and other means, the landlord stops contact.
To better protect yourself from these types of scams:
- Use a reputable rental website or go to the property management office itself;
- Search the internet for the address, see if anything suspicious is found;
- If the rental price is too good to be true, it is probably a fraud;
- Do not deposit cash, cash is not traceable;
- Don’t wire money, wire transfers are extremely difficult to reverse and track;
- Do not give out personal information such as your social insurance number, bank account or credit card;
- Be sure to speak with the property owner or property manager;
- Find out from surrounding neighbors about the owner of the land and the history of the property (neighbors should be able to tell you who lives next door and whether or not they own the land)
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @ shinebox44.