The Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) is reminding people to proceed with caution when browsing or making purchases on buy, sell, and rent websites due to an increase in reported scams in the city beginning in April.
Investigators with the economic crime unit say there have been situations of stolen identity. The suspect then used the obtained identity to pose as a property owner, looking for renters and posting places for sale on websites such as Kijiji.
SPS Sgt. Doug McNeil says the deals were too good to be true.
“These homes were larger homes in the Willowgrove, Evergreen, Rosewood areas,” McNeil said. “The prices were very reasonable in terms of renting costs.”
He says people were sending applications, signing contracts, and sending money to this individual without ever going to see in person the property they were paying to rent. Their excuse for not meeting was the COVID-19 pandemic and the regulations currently in place.
He says people need to recognize the telltale signs of a scam. In this case, one such sign was that the individual was never available to meet in person or had those interested in the properties send payment to other parties.
“Everyone spends most of their monthly income on housing whether it be on mortgage or rental That should raise red flags,” McNeil said.
McNeil says on average people were out around $2,000, in some cases $4,000 or more.
“These dollar amounts were sent through e-transfer through a second party and then converted to Bitcoin at which point (the money) becomes untraceable.”
The SPS says similar reports of scams have been occurring across western Canada.
The scam investigation is ongoing.
How to avoid falling victim to a scam when holiday shopping
McNeil says with the holiday season upon us and people doing a lot more online shopping, it’s important to remember to think twice about what websites you shop on, and where you are sending your money.
“If you are buying commercially, off these larger sites, trust the regular sites like PayPal. It ensures your money is going to the proper recipient.”
McNeil says it always a good idea to double-check what websites you shop from, to avoid falling victim to a scam.