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Vacationers need to be aware of online rental scams, experts warn


As more people get vaccinated and some restrictions are lifted, travellers may be tempted to take a vacation this summer, but experts are warning people to be careful as online rental scams are increasing.

If you're thinking of a last-minute cottage rental, just be aware that online rental scams have increased by 15 per cent during the pandemic according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).

Rental scams were a huge problem last summer as many people vacationed within the province.

The CAFC said fraudsters were able to steal funds from 386 victims totalling $586,424 in losses in 2020. This is only the amount reported to CAFC so it’s likely losses are much higher.

If you're planning a vacation, cyber security experts say beware of online rental scams.

“Unfortunately cyber criminals and scammers are very aware that people want to get away to lakes and rural parts of the country," said Tony Anscombe, chief security expert with ESET.

Anscombe said that to avoid vacation rental scams only use reputable booking sites and don’t communicate off the rental platform.

He said don’t pay with a wire transfer or e-transfer and beware if there is pressure to pay quickly.

“If someone is offering a vacation rental through social media and they are demanding you pay in cash or with a wire transfer I wouldn't trust it," Anscombe said.

Online fraud has increased during the pandemic and a new survey by TransUnion found that when it came digital fraud attempts, financial services fraud increased 217 per cent and travel and leisure fraud increased by 49 per cent.

“The rate of attempted fraud is not just financial services, it's across different vectors," said Anne-Marie Kelly with TransUnion.

TransUnion said consumers need to be vigilant to protect their private information and to make sure they don't click on suspicious links in texts, e-mails or adds.

“I think the fraudsters are very aware of some of the vulnerabilities that they can tap into," Kelly said.

Following a rash of vacation rentals scams last year, the Ontario Provincial Police issued a warning saying renters should only deal with the owner of the cottage or a reputable rental service and to try and view the cottage in person before putting down a deposit. Top Stories

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