Demand for cottage rentals in Quebec is at an all-time high this summer. With this increase in demand comes the rise of a scam aimed at defrauding clients looking for a cottage for the vacations. Fake cottage, fake rental contract, fake Facebook accounts: everything is set up to get large sums of money from vacationers.
It's the beginning of the vacation, you have rented a cottage for a week at an interesting price in the Laurentides. Everything is already paid for, the chalet is waiting for you! You've even invited two other couples for a day of swimming and barbecuing at the cottage. After all, what better way to entertain friends than in a cottage by the water!
The pictures of the cottage are great! Plus, you have a hot tub and kayaks to help you explore the lake. You can already see yourself having a glass of wine at the end of the dock, with your feet in the water. Truly, this summer will be a memorable one.
The day of the reservation comes, you prepare your luggage and jump in the car. It takes you 1h30 to get there and the atmosphere is festive! You've already planned to start your vacation with a glass of bubbly in the spa.
You found the cottage location without any difficulty, the cottage is even more beautiful in real life! Except that there is already a car in the entrance. You knock. A lady opens the door. You explain to her that you are coming for the rental. She looks at you strangely, then tells you that the chalet is not for rent, that she lives there.
Nothing is going well. You try to contact the person who rented it to you on Facebook. No answers, and you will never get one. You show the pictures of the cottage to the lady. She realizes that these pictures are from the real estate agent's ad because she has just put the home up for sale. It has never been for rent.
All of a sudden, your vacation has gone down the drain and your payment has evaporated. You've been the victim of a scam that is becoming more and more common these days.
You are not alone: the Journal de Montréal recently reported that this type of scam has grown this year, mainly on social networks. Since many Quebecers are turning to cottage rentals as an alternative to going abroad, fraudsters have more opportunities to operate.
Fake cottage rentals are not new and the modus operandi generally includes the following elements:
We lure you from an ad on social networks;
They show you pictures of a real cottage;
You are asked to pay a deposit by Interac transfer or in person;
You are asked to sign a credible rental agreement.
Don't forget that in addition to stealing your deposit, the fraudster now has all of the information you entered in their contract. It is better to be doubly wary!
There are some very simple precautions that can help you avoid being defrauded when renting a cottage:
Use reputable agencies for reservations. Tip: Google and Facebook reviews will give you an idea of what other clients have experienced.
Have the transaction made on a secure website. Make sure that the website address begins with https (the S is very important).
Prioritize credit card or Paypal Business payments, means that ensures traceability and recourse in case of fraud.
Check that the cottage is classified as a tourist accommodation site, which is mandatory. A CITQ code (Corporation de l'industrie touristique du Québec) must absolutely be present on the cottage's ad.
Make sure that the CITQ code corresponds to the cottage and the owner by checking on the Quebec Original website (using the search bar at the top right).
If you intend to send a bank transfer to the owner of the cottage, do so only to the number or address indicated on the Quebec Original website.
Make sure to obtain and understand the cancellation and refund policy.
If you are a victim of fraud when renting a cottage, you should
Try to contact the person who rented you the cottage to make sure it is not a misunderstanding;
Contact the financial institution with which you made your payment or the Paypal customer service, if you paid that way. These institutions will explain your options and may be able to have a certain compensation in the event of fraud;
Contact the Office de la protection du consommateur if you believe you have made your reservation with a real company.
Contact your local police department to file a complaint if it is a real scam.
Choosing a reputable rental agency is the best guarantee against fraud. The following trusted partners offer a reliable and well-managed rental experience with no surprises:
To ensure that your rental experience goes as planned, you can count on the following prevention and support measures
A 24-hour call centre to assist you in the event of a problem
Full refund in the event that you do not have access to the cottage;
Deposits and payment by credit card, with proof of payment.