A Calgary family is warning others to be careful of rental scams after being hijacked by fraudsters pretending to be the owners of their home.
Danielle and Ian Haberlack told Global News their home has seen a steady stream of visitors — most of them uninvited — over the past six years. The strangers ring the doorbell, peek in their windows and even wander about their property.
“It has become a danger to my family,” they said.
When asked what the visitors are doing, Danielle Haberlack said she’s been told they have a right to because they’ve paid a deposit to rent the place. Haberlack then has to break the news that she is the landlord and the home is not for rent.
“Some people were very aggressive towards us,” she said. “Some people were crying on the doorstep.”
The couple said the problems started six years ago when they listed their home for sale. They decided not to sell, but by then the scammers had taken the realtor’s photos of the property and used them to post the home on various rental sites, complete with a story about why he was leaving.
“He had a sob story on his post that he had to suddenly move his family,” Haberlack said.
The scammers also listed the detached property for a mere $1,300 per month, well below recent rental averages in Calgary. That invited a lot of interest and cash for the con artist.
“I think over the six years, he’s made over $10,000 off of my house,” Haberlack said.
The Haberlacks told Global News they have even been accused of being part of the scam, which they call outrageous.
“We’re not scamming people. We’re not getting your money. Our house is not for rent.”
The couple said they have spent years getting the ads blocked and removed from the various rental listing sites, all to no avail.
As of Wednesday morning, the home and its address was still searchable on popular rental site rentfaster.ca.
Global News reached out to the site and shortly afterwards the listing was removed. We have not heard back from the site’s administrators.
The Calgary Police Service told Global News in a statement that the investigation is ongoing.
“What we can confirm at this time is that the offender or offenders have utilized sophisticated identity-concealing tactics and we are exploring several avenues to identify the person or persons responsible,” a CPS statement said.
Danielle Haberlack said she has heard the same thing.
“Unfortunately, they just can’t seem to find him or track him or figure out how he’s doing this,” she said. “He jumps from emails to websites to burner phones and we just can’t find him.”
The Haberlacks would like to see realtors put a watermark on any and all photos of properties for sale so that they are not as easy to steal.