“You have nothing to worry about.”
That’s what the Castlegar News was told by someone trying to rent out a Castlegar property online.
The trouble is, we did have something to worry about — the advertiser doesn’t own the property and isn’t authorized to rent it.
Local realtor Carmen Harris discovered that a home she is selling is being marketed as a rental property and she is concerned that vulnerable residents may fall prey to the fraud.
The property is a mobile home in a park in the middle of Castlegar and the rent price being advertised is low for the area.
The Castlegar News contacted the person who was posing as the property owner to inquire about it.
The scammer said they are working in Dubai and were initially planning to sell the house, but changed their mind.
“Never mind if you see the for sale sign in front of the house,” the scammer wrote in an email.
“My initial plan was to sell the house but it was not successful because the realtor raised the price, which made it difficult for me to sell before leaving the city.”
The scammer sent a rental form asking if we are married, have a pet, have a car, how long we would like to rent it and how soon we could pay.
Ironically, we were also asked: “Have you ever had any police case.”
We were also asked for the usual personal information — phone numbers, addresses, references.
After several more emails, we were told the scammer would be happy to rent the home to us.
We were then advised that we needed to make our deposit payment immediately. We were assured that as soon as the payment was confirmed keys and documents would be sent via a next-day delivery service. They gave us a name and a location in Dubai to send an XPress Money Transfer to.
Castlegar News then told the scammers that the realtor had told us the house was still for sale and asked if they were scamming us.
The reply: “Scam you? the realtor raised the price i told you this in my previous email.”
Recurring problem locally
Harris said other realtors at the Castlegar Re/Max office have experienced similar problems.
Joni Askew at Fair Realty said the problem has been going on for several years.
“It has happened a lot,” said Askew. “Some people from Castlegar have actually sent money to rent a property.”
Askew said it appears that scammers are targeting properties that look empty in real estate listings.
The Competition Bureau of Canada has a list of warning signs to look for when renting a property:
• the monthly rent is lower than other similar places
• you’re asked to leave a deposit without any formal rental agreement or lease in place
• you’re asked to send money to someone outside the country
• when you ask about the apartment, you get an email that sends you to a website asking for personal or financial information
• ads show pictures of the outside of the property only, or pictures that don’t match the actual property or address
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