Hannah DeBoer-Smith, 22, who lives in Nelson and grew up here, was looking for a place to rent last month, so she put an ad on on Kijiji and ilovenelson.com. In response she got an email from a person identifying herself as Bridget Gardner, telling Deboer-Smith she had the perfect place for her, a three-bedroom house in Nelson for $550 per month.
“She said she was out of the country,” DeBoer-Smith says, “and they really needed someone to look after their house. They sent me an application form, and I said I wanted more information, but they kept pushing the application form. They wanted a $200 security deposit.
“I asked them if I could get pictures. I wanted to see if it was legit because I was hesitant.”
She asked if she could book an appointment to see the house and was told they were in the U.S. working for the Christian Followers Crusade, that she would have to take it sight unseen, and that was why the price was so cheap. They sent her the Rosemont address of the house.
“So I Googled the house address and it came up on the RHC Realty website,” DeBoer-Smith said. “The house was for sale. The scammers had taken the picture off that website. My family knows the realtor, Glen Darough, so I contacted him.
DeBoer-Smith then posted a scam alert on ilovenelson and reported the matter to the police.
Darough phoned his client, the owner of the house, Melissa Duarte, to warn her.
“We got a call from our realtor,” says Duarte, “who said, ‘just to let you know, they stole photos of your house off my website and listed it as a rental.’ It makes me really uncomfortable, being involved in a scam. I credit Hannah for being so incredible.”
The Star then sent an email to Bridget Gardner, from a reporter’s private email address. The house Gardner then tried to rent us is the same house — Duarte’s house. She wanted the security deposit and the first month’s rent — a total of $750. See the email exchange below.
The Star eventually gave up on this email exchange because it’s not known where Gardner is or if she even exists, so there was no likelihood of a major sting operation or an award for investigative journalism, or even justice.
Chris O’Gorman of South Slocan encountered the same scam. He rents out a basement suite and recently found new tenants, but before they moved in, he got a surprising phone call.
“Hi, this is Charlene, I’m the one who’s moving into your apartment.”
The problem was, O’Gorman’s new tenant wasn’t named Charlene. And it wasn’t Tom either.
A few days later: “Hi, this is Tom, you’ve been emailing with my girlfriend. I’m the guy moving into your place.”
O’Gorman doesn’t know whether Charlene or Tom paid the scammer any money.
When DeBoer-Smith reported her scam to the Nelson Police Department, she spoke with dispatcher Terry Kidd, who gave her some oft-heard but still valuable advice: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Dear scam artist …
This was reporter Bill Metcalfe’s correspondence with someone who has been ripping off people looking for accommodation in Nelson, but seems unaware that the jig is up.
Bill Metcalfe, Sept 29:
“I am looking for a rental in Nelson BC and I hear that you are a rental agency. I need a small one or two bedroom house close to downtown. Please let me know if you have anything. It’s really hard to find rentals in this town and I am pretty desperate.”
Bridget Gardner, Oct 1:
“Just move in!!! All the work has been done and this affordable 3 bedroom half-duplex will provide comfortable living with upgraded windows & blinds, appliances, heating fixtures, paint inside & out, lighting, flooring, roof, and so much more. There are fantastic lakeand valley views, and the rear yard is fenced, and includes an 18 x 12 patio deck with extra storage space plus lawn and bbq area
I and my family used to live in the house but recently relocated due to transfer at my work place. I’m currently in Indianapolis, Indiana for an international Christian follower’s Crusade. Owning a home and taking good care of it has not been easy at all, that is why i am pleading that you take very good care of my house if you finally are the new occupant and treat the place like you own it, the price I am renting it out for is not a problem but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come to visit you when next i am in town. The house has been for sale for some time now but, my wife advised me to just rent it out to a good person that can take care of it. I also want you to let me have trust in you as I always stand on my word. Extremely spacious rooms throughout with lots of big windows! New neutral paint and some newer carpet…..Very quiet location, low traffic area. New fridge. Its a perfect home for you.
Utilities include Water, Trash, Sewer, Gas Etc….
ABOUT THE HOUSE
No of bedrooms:3
No of bathrooms:2
House Address: (she gave Duarte’s house address in Rosemont)
Rental price: $550 per month and security Deposit is $200(Security Deposit is Refundable) Utilities included in monthly rent and pets are welcome.
Bill Metcalfe, Oct. 1:
Hi Bridget. This sounds like a great deal.
It sounds from what you are saying that the house is vacant now. Is that true? Also, where would I send the security deposit and the application form?
Bridget Gardner, Oct. 2:
You should fill out the form and send back to me via email then the security deposit would be sent to us here in Indianapolis so, that we can arrange for the keys and documents to be sent to you.
Bill Metcalfe, Oct. 2:
OK I will fill it out tomorrow but is there any way I can get a look at the inside of the house? Do you have anyone here who can do that?
Bridget Gardner, Oct. 3:
Glad to hear back from you. We want to thank you for the interest you have shown toward renting our house and i pray and believe that our house will be a blessing to you as soon as you move in.We are really grateful that finally someone will be renting our house, so we hope we are doing the right thing by trusting you with our property. Once you fill out the form, please send it back by email.
The Property rent is so low because we needed someone to move in and take good care of the house while we are away. We want it to come to your notice that we spent a lot on this property so one thing i can assure you is that you will never regret renting from us. We have concluded on accepting payment of the first month of $550 and security deposit of $200 making a total of $750 for you to secure the house now and move in as soon as you are ready.