Some scummy scammers are ruining would-be Muskoka vacations for cottage-cravers.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) issued a press release early this week, warning of the cottage rental scams.
“Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police has received several complaints from people who have been victimized by cottage rental scams online,” reads the release. “Scammers are utilizing common marketplace sites such as KIJIJI to advertise cottages for rent in Muskoka and display attractive photos and provide legitimate addresses.”
The scammer then provides a rental agreement, funds are exchanged, and duped cottage-seekers are left to look forward to their relaxing retreat in the pristine part of the province.
The problem is, once the renter arrives to check-in at the property they think they’ve rented, it’s not a rental at all. In fact, presumably blissfully unaware (soon to be very confused) people actually live there.
“This leaves the renter displaced and being forced to turn around and return home and is aggravating to the homeowner as they are unsettled by the random arrival of strangers on their doorstep,” reads the release.
How incredibly maddening (to say the least). Apparently – though they may vary in tactics – Muskoka is no stranger to cottage rental scams.
“This is a problem each year unfortunately,” says Maryrose Coleman of Muskoka District Rentals, a leading luxury cottage rental site in the region. “We have known of scammers who create fake listings by stealing photos online from legitimate rentals, only [for renters] to arrive to learn that they have been ripped off.”
Those who don’t want to clock hours in the car or waste their precious vacation days are naturally in a scramble to find alternative accommodations in a nearby hotel or (legit) cottage rental.
“We have literally driven out to meet a guest and check them into one of our rentals after they "booked" a cottage that was not legit and only discovered this when they arrived with a car full of tired and hungry kids and gear on a Saturday night,” says Coleman.
Renting from a reputable rental agency like Muskoka District Rentals is the best option for anyone not wanting to take a chance on their vacation.
Like anything online, if the cottage seems too good to be true, it probably is.
“Definitely watch out for pricing that seems too good to be true,” says Coleman. “Confirm the address exists. Confirm that the ‘owner’ exists and does not have any negative social media or reviews about scamming renters. If you are being pressured to pay cash or e-transfer the funds this is a red flag.”
Another word of advice? Muskoka's rental properties have been red-hot since the onset of the pandemic and show no signs of cooling. Meaning, the time to book prime real estate for next summer is already here.