In mid-winter last year, Gary Brown said he and his family met a watery-eyed woman at the front door of their Hamilton Mountain home.
The woman told Brown that she responded to an online ad that her basement was available for rent and that she had already paid the first and last month’s rent deposit.
Brown said he told her what he told about five other people – the ad was a scam.
“She said she had a hard time getting the deposit together and that was pretty much all she had, and she said to me, ‘I might end up living on the streets,'” said the 61-year-old owner to CBC News.
Brown said a scammer used his address and a photo of his house to falsely advertise a basement for rent.
It is unclear how common this type of scam is and how much money the scammer made in total from the fake ad, which was placed in the middle of a rental and real estate market in booming.
Brown said he learned about the scam last summer after someone knocked on his door.
He soon uncovered fake ads on sites like Kijiji for a one-bedroom apartment in his basement, offering the space for $1,000 a month — well below $1,514, the average rental price in the city. a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton, according to Rentals.ca.
CBC Hamilton found a now-deleted ad offering the unit for $800 a month.
Brown said the ads featured a photo of his house and a photo of a basement in another house.
At least six people approached the house, while others peeked into the backyard, he said.
Based on conversations he had with some of those people, Brown said, the scammer told potential tenants that he was a truck driver from Montreal and couldn’t meet them in person, but that would give them access to the unit if they paid a deposit with the first and last month’s rent.
While most said they hadn’t paid, Brown said he was upset about the situation.
“They are the victims, but I also feel like we are a victim because [the scammer] uses our house,” Brown said, adding that he hadn’t seen anyone near the house since the winter.
How to avoid rental scams
Brown said he reported it to Kijiji and the listing was taken down soon after.
Kijiji Canada told CBC it takes allegations of fraud “extremely seriously” and has a team to root out scammers.
Our advice to our users is to err on the side of caution if something seems too good to be true.– Kijiji Canada
“When it comes to renting a property on Kijiji, our advice to our users is to exercise caution if something seems too good to be true,” read a statement, adding that there are other resources on website.
Brown also said he reported it to police twice, but was told there was not much they could do.
Hamilton police spokesman Jackie Penman said the department had no reports of a rental scam involving Brown’s address.
“Hamilton Police always recommend scheduling a viewing and meeting the landlord in person. It’s also important to ensure tenants apply for a lease and review accordingly,” she wrote.
Competition Bureau Canada Web page for rental scams describes a situation similar to that described by Brown.
He said the red flags to watch out for are:
- Where monthly rent is lower than other similar locations.
- When you are asked to leave a deposit without any formal rental agreement or lease in place.
- When you are asked to send money to someone outside the country.
- When you ask about the apartment and receive an email that sends you to a website asking for personal or financial information.
Here are some tips to avoid this type of scam:
- Go to the address or find actual images of the rental.
- Search the address to make sure it’s not a duplicate post, or use a reverse image search to see if the photos in the listing have been used elsewhere.
- Schedule a visit and confirm that the owner will be present.
- Contact builder to confirm ownership.
- Apply for a lease or contract.