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Scam Warning

The Off-Campus Housing Office

321 Hatcher House | Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(709) 864-3765 or (709) 864-4796 |

Rental Scams

Rental scams, unfortunately, have become frequent with landlords and students who are advertising properties through online rental listings, websites and social media. A rental scam is one of many tricks used to defraud landlords, students, or potential tenants by gaining their confidence and potentially monetary compensation.

*UPDATE: January 30th, 2014:

Off-Campus Housing has heard from multiple landlords within the last 2 weeks regarding potential scams from individuals, some alias may be Shelly Pan, and Marcus Wilder/Pan. Please do not send any potential tenants money, nor should you divulge personal information to anyone via email, including banking information or your full address.

These emails have been extremely believable, so please use caution when talking with prospective tenants. There is a good chance that you are dealing with a scammer if any questions you ask are not directly answered. During your conversation ask what program a student is in, or what their student number is. Students accepted to Memorial can answer these questions, if the person you are talking to cannot, then this may be a good hint that you are dealing with a scammer. If the second or third email from the person seems to be pre-written(as if your response was not read) then it is likely a scam. Use these security measures to obtain confidence that the individual you are corresponding with is indeed seeking accomodations in St. John's. For more guidance, please contact Off-Campus Housing.

Scams Targeting Students

There are many websites on the internet that post rental advertisements. Please exercise caution with your rental search as there are also scams that specifically target potential tenants. Some, for instance, advertise an almost too-good-to-be-true property (sometimes even with photos) and require a deposit or a portion of the rent before letting you view the property. They may promise to send you keys upon receiving payment. Often the photos being displayed aren’t of the actual property address being advertised, and sometimes the photos and the advertisement itself are of a property that actually exists but the scammer has stolen the information from another website and only changed the contact information to theirs.

OCH Tips for Students:

  1. Check out the location of the property, to ensure that the property event exits. Sometimes, the civic number for a property doesn't exist.
  2. Do not send any money or personal information without meeting the landlord or property manager
  3. Have a friend or relative enquire about the property information from the landlord and compare notes
  4. Use an online search engine to search for the person's name, email, telephone number or other identifying features to see if there have been other online complaints

Scams Targeting Landlords

Every year, there are numerous reports of potential rental scams from universities and cities across Canada. Some report that the scammer contacts the landlord offering to pay the full year’s rent up front with a cheque or a money order. In this situation, the money order or cheque is fraudulent. This has occurred several times in St. John's to date. Typically what happens is that the individual sends the rent for several months (or the full lease) and then asks for all but one or two month's rent (deposit) to be returned. Scammers will often state that they need you to quickly return the excess money so they may arrange travel. They do this in the hope that you will send them the money before the normal clearing process has happened at your bank, and the forgery has been detected. This would result in you losing the money that you have returned to them.

OCH Tips for Landlords:

  1. Ask the potential tenant to correspond using their email address
  2. If the potential tenant is in the St. John's area, ask them to arrange a property visit so you can meet the people(s) interested in renting
  3. Ask for and check references, including employers, previous landlords or character references
  4. Use an online search engine to search for the person's name, email, telephone number or other identifying features to see if there have been other online complaints

Warning Signs of a Scam

How do you avoid becoming a victim of a rental scam? There are sometimes commonalities with rental scams. Here are a few things you should look for in emails or online advertisements that may be indicative of a rental scam. Potential “red flags” could include:

·Misspellings and/or grammatical errors

·The property owner or potential tenant only includes a first name

·The property owner is travelling on business and/or is unable to personally show you the property

·The email address is from a free provider (ex. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc)

·The property owner will send you the keys via mail

·The potential tenant is unable to provide any character references

·The potential tenant references want to move in property unseen (please be aware that most international students will not be able to view a property before they arrive in St. John’s)

·The potential tenant wants to send you a money order or cheque and asks for you, the landlord, to send back the excess money, claiming their mistake or travel arrangements

·The email references God, UK, Cashier’s Check, Doctor, Nigeria, Reverend, and /or to send money to another person or an agent

·You receive multiple emails with similar situations from different individuals in a short period of time


*If you are unsure whether the email you received is legitimate or not, feel free to contact Off-Campus Housing for information regarding scams.

Where to Report Scams

Off-Campus Housing, Memorial University

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary

Ant-Fraud Centre

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation

Better Business Bureau- Scam and Tips

For Students

For Landlords