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Hundreds of potential tenants show up at Sooke rental after scammer lists it for $500

Vancouver Island rental scam provides cautionary tale
It appears some scammers are taking advantage of B.C.'s tight rental market. Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa tells us what happens, and give us some tips on how to avoid falling victim to the scam.

A B.C. woman has taken her monthly rental property off the market after she fell victim to a rental scam along with 200 potential tenants.

“People showed up on my property and were verbally aggressive. No one hurt me, but they certainly suggested they might be if I didn’t let them into their home,” said landlord Kara Prachnau.

Stories about renting in B.C. on Globalnews.ca:

The Sooke resident had advertised a fully furnished one-bedroom suite on Kijiji.

However, shortly after Prachnau posted it, she said the same online ad surfaced on Craiglist.

Turns out, unbeknownst to Prachnau, someone had stolen her online ad, offering the suite for less than half the price.

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“The same suite with the same photographs and the same write-up out there online for $500 a month as a listed rental price,” Prachnau said.

When she eventually found out someone had swiped her rental pics, Prachnau repeatedly tried to prohibit the ad on Craigslist, but said the fraudster continued posting it.

“They would keep the photographs and a bit of the wordage and then have new names and new contact information,” she said.

The exterior of a rental unit in Sooke that became the target of a scammer.
The exterior of a rental unit in Sooke that became the target of a scammer. Global News

What’s worse, potential tenants had already sent damage deposits and, in some cases, the first month’s rent to the scammer.

Prachnau said so many people showed up at her property expecting to move in that she felt unsafe and was forced leave it temporarily.

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She contacted police and filed a report, but Prachnau said RCMP told her it would be difficult to track down the people behind the scam.

“We need to be advocates for ourselves as landlords,” she said.

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LISTEN: Online scammers copy a real rental posting and offer it for a cheaper price. They ask people to wire them first months rent or a damage deposit to hold the suite. When the tenant shows up to move in, both they and the surprised real landlord are in for a shock.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) said that while this type of rental scam isn’t new, it’s becoming increasingly frequent and sophisticated given the tight rental market.

“It comes down to consumers being more savvy and more aware,” said the BBB’s Evan Kelly.

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The BBB recommends that prospective renters meet with the landlord in person, especially before signing a lease.

Never wire or forward funds to someone you don’t know, it added.

Also, check market rental rates. Watch out for deals that are too good to be true.

Prachnau said after this last experience, she’s changed her rental to a vacation rental, an arrangement with which she feels more secure.