The 2010 Olympics are approaching, but the scams have already arrived.
With Vancouver just a road trip away some locals will make the trek to the games. Better Business Bureau warns perspective vacationers to lookout for scams when searching for Vancouver-Whistler area rentals.
Phony ads for British Columbia rental properties are popping up on Craigslist and other online classifieds, aimed at stealing money from unsuspecting renters.
Victims typically fall for rental scams after responding to an online classified for a rental property. Victims say they were told by the supposed landlord that they needed to wire a large deposit in order to receive the keys to the rental home. When the victims asked if they could check out the property first, the landlords claimed that they were out of the country and could not show the house. Often the real homeowners have their house up for sale – not rent - and had pictures posted online that the scammers steal for their bogus listings.
In one example, according to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report, a U.S. group attempted to rent a property from a landlord in Whistler, who requested a $2,000 deposit by wire transfer to secure the residence through the 2010 Games. There was an issue with the information provided by the landlord to the renters and Western Union halted the transaction before it could be completed.
BBB advises renters to watch for the following red flags:
- The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced; and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
- The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers are known to say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work.
- The landlord asks the renter to wire money through wire transfer services, such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve; and once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse—if any—for getting your money back.
- The landlord requires a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the home. Don’t pay any money before inspecting inside the property. If you cannot travel early to examine the property: ask for a contract with all the terms, details and conditions; make sure the rental is furnished; request proof that the property belongs to the individual; and ask if, after signing the contract, you can pay upon your arrival to the property. Owners renting their home, condominium or apartment for the games are required to have a business license through the City of Vancouver, request a copy (a license is not required to rent a single room).
- If you are looking for accommodations during the 2010 Games, the Olympics has an official Web site, www.2010destinationplanner.com, providing a list of hotels, bed and breakfasts, private home rentals and rooms on cruise ships. Check Canadian tourism businesses out at www.bbb.org. Make sure they are properly licensed. Travel agencies should be licensed with Consumer Protection BC and Property Management firms with the Real Estate Council of British Columbia.