The University of Waterloo Special Constable Service in collaboration with the University of Waterloo Information Security Services is warning members of our community to be wary of a variety of fraudulent activity recently highlighted in the media. Of particular interest to students are two types of rental scams to be conscious of.

The first scam is Fraudulent Renters looking for Property to Rent.  In these instances, scammers fraudulently advertise rentals in a preferred location. They may request the renters to answer a questionnaire asking for their personal information and banking information. Once the offer is accepted, the renter then sends money to the scammer with first and/or last month’s rent. The victim arrives at the designated time to receive their keys and learns that the address does not exist or that they have been misled.

Things to consider:

  • Is the deal too good to be true?
  • Know what reasonable rental rates are. 
  • Review your contract thoroughly and have a friend or family member view it as well.
  • Go to the address. Schedule a viewing and confirm that the property exists.
  • Is there an urgency or pressure to get the deal done quickly?
  • Have you asked questions that they are avoiding?
  • Are you asked to transfer money through the internet or wire money out of the country?

The second scam is Fraudulent Properties for Rent. Fraudulent renters are scammers who claim to want to rent the apartment but actually do not intend to live there. They send a fraudulent form of overpayment and ask you, the potential renter to send the additional funds back to them.

Things to consider:

  • Check the facts and verify personal information.
  • If the person lives out of the country and wants to rent the advertised location, DO NOT provide your banking information. Have the money e-transferred to an email address specifically designated for such transactions that do not link to your personal email.
  • Never return funds that are “overpayment”.  If this occurs, suggest applying the amount to their next month’s rent.

Another important thing to consider while looking or renting a property is to limit the personal and banking information that you share with the owner or renter.  If the post or rental property is a scam, the fraudster may use your information for identify fraud purposes.

If you have been a victim of a rental scam contact the ad publisher, file a complaint with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and contact your local police service to make a report.

Scams and other Frauds

Every year, thousands of Canadians fall victim to fraud, losing millions of dollars. Most don't think it could happen to them, but fraudsters use sophisticated ways to target people of all ages.

The impact of fraud on individuals, families and businesses can be devastating. Retirement savings, homes, businesses and in some cases, lives have all been lost.

Scammers victimize vulnerable Canadians, individuals who may be at their lowest. The best way to fight these types of crime is through awareness. The RCMP manages the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) with the Competition Bureau and the Ontario Provincial Police. The CAFC plays a crucial role in educating the public about scams and fraud.

The CAFC is Canada's repository for data, intelligence and resource material related to fraud. It provides information to assist citizens, businesses and law enforcement in Canada and around the world.

What to do if you are a victim:

Step 1: Gather all information about the fraud. This includes documents, receipts, copies of emails and/or text messages.

Step 2: Report the incident to University of Waterloo Special Constable Service (UWSCS) via our online reporting form. This ensures that UWSCS is aware of which scams are targeting their residents and businesses. Keep a log of all your calls and record all file or occurrence numbers.

Step 3: Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Step 4: Report the incident to the financial institution where the money was sent (e.g., money service business such as Western Union or MoneyGram, bank or credit union, credit card company or internet payment service provider).

Step 5: If the fraud took place online through Facebook, eBay, a classified ad such as Kijiji or a dating website, be sure to report the incident directly to the website. These details can be found under "report abuse" or "report an ad”. If the fraudulent activity occurred through a University of Waterloo email account, please contact the IST Security Operations Centre.

Step 6: Victims of identity fraud should place flags on all their accounts and report to both credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion.

If you suspect that someone you know has fallen prey to a deceptive telemarketer, don't criticize them. Encourage them to share their concerns with you about unsolicited calls or any new business or charitable dealings. Assure them that it is not rude to hang up on suspicious calls.

Keep in mind that criminal telemarketers are relentless in hounding people. Some victims report receiving five or more calls a day, wearing down their resistance. And once a person has succumbed to this ruthless fraud, their name and number will likely go on a "list", which is sold from one crook to another.