COVID-19: Beware of pandemic-related rental and moving scams at this time of the month, Better Business Bureau warns

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      The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Mainland B.C. has released two warning bulletins for British Columbians planning to move during the coronavirus pandemic.

      In a May 1 release, Karla Laird, the BBB's manager for community and public relations, said that people hiring a moving company should take precautions to ensure they do not experience price-gouging, extra fees, or outfits that do not take COVID-19 safety precautions.

      In another bulletin two days earlier, Laird warned consumers to beware a pandemic-related rental scam that is generating dozens of complaints in the U.S. and that might show up in B.C. soon. 

      In this fraud, scammers copy legitimate rental ads and post them on platforms such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or KIjiji, posing as the owners. Prospective renters are told to go to the property and view it from outside but that the owners cannot show the rental because of pandemic-safety precautions.

      If would-be renters still want to rent after viewing, they are told to make remote payments of one month's rent and a damage deposit before a lease agreement will be provided to sign.

      "We anticipate this could be a new scam trend and are urging consumers to be on the lookout," Laird wrote. "Last year, more than 5 million people across North America lost over $500 to rental scams, and with COVID-19 adding further opportunities for scammers, this could lead to a spiral in reports across Canada”.

      (For BBB COVID-19 updates and resources, including information about emerging scams, go here.)

      In the later release, Laird said: "Whether you are moving across town or across the province, choosing a mover should not be taken lightly.

      "In 2019, close to 600 complaints and almost 200,500 inquiries about movers and moving companies were registered with Better Business Bureaus across Canada and the Canadian Association of Movers," Laird continued. "Common complaints included damaged or missing items, bills that were higher than estimates, late deliveries, and in some cases, goods held hostage for additional payments."


      BBB president Danielle Primrose added: "Unfortunately, fly-by-night and no-name "truck-for-hire" movers can take advantage of the fact that consumers are under emotional, financial and time pressures when moving. The additional challenges introduced by the pandemic can leave consumers even more exposed to moving frauds."

      The BBB and the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM) offered eight tips in the release to help ensure a worry-free moving experience for consumers, including: check the mover's BBB and CAM rating; ask about replacement valuation protection ("the number one complaint at CAM is damage to a consumer’s shipment that was not covered correctly under the RVP"); get all estimates in writing; ask if payment is required before your goods are delivered; make sure your mover's truck/equipment can access your new living space; take all valuables with you and check to see what is covered under your household insurance and what the mover will be liable for; cancel the move if the company will not provide a business address or give details about what it is liable for in case of damage; and always file a complaint with the BBB if you are not satisfied with the service you receive.