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15 April 2009 (Internet Scam)Warning - this news article expired on 2009-05-15. Information may no longer be accurate or applicable 15 April 2009 (Internet Scam)

Internet Apartment for Rent Scam and Over Payments

Belleville Police are reminding anyone searching the internet for an apartment to watch out for online scams.

In some cases, a person posing as a landlord says he or she is out of the country or Province and requires a deposit on the rental. Once the money is paid, usually through a money transfer, the victim discovers there isn't actually a rental.

The scam isn't a new one and police spoke to the media in January 2009 after a local woman lost a thousand dollars to a person holding himself out to be the landlord of fully furnished apartment for rent.

It has recently become more prolific and harder to spot because fraudsters are cutting and pasting text from real ads and using real photos. The only thing that is different is the contact information.

In the past several months the Belleville Police Service has noticed an increase in these types of occurrences. In some of these occurrences people have been victimized out of large sums of money and in other occurrences the potential renter has caught on very quickly that this was a scam and no money was exchanged.

Quite often once you have sent your security deposit for the apartment the fraudster will request more money for first and/or last months rent.
Police wish to caution the public of landlords who say they are from out of town and ask you to send security deposits for a property you are not able to physically view.  Do not exchange any money with anyone until you confirm that this property exists and the landlord or property manager is the person he or she claims to be.  For out of town renters do not send security deposits unless you are 100% certain. 
The Belleville Police have also received complaints of another type of fraud involving the internet.
The victim will post an item for sale on a web site. They will receive confirmation from the fraudster that they want to purchase the item. In most cases there are a series of emails exchanged. The fraudster will send the seller an over payment by way of cheque. He/she will instruct the seller to cash the cheque and keep the amount owed, and sometimes extra for the inconvenience, and then send the remaining amount back to them or a third party. In reality the cheque is a forgery.
In a recent occurrence the item being sold was for $75.00 however the overpayment was in the amount of $2500. Again in most occurrences here the seller sees through the scam and reported to police as opposed to participating.
Belleville Police do not want to discourage people from buying and selling through the internet or from renting using this method, however to please be cautious when dealing with prospective landlords and to NEVER accept an over payment.
Police would like to offer some advice.

        Insist on physically viewing all potential apartments and do not accept a ?drive by.?

        Proof that the person is the landlord or property manager

        Google the name of the people you are dealing with as well as the address (quite often the address is listed on another site with a different contact name)

        Limit personal information you give over the internet (in a recent occurrence a person?s SIN number may have been comprised when the person was attempting to secure an apartment over the internet)

        Beware of anyone wanting to do business using untraceable money transfers

        NEVER accept over payments

Most important?.. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.