A Grand Forks woman is warning hopeful renters to beware of online scams after she was propositioned by a phony landlord.
Rosemary Phillips, who recently posted to the classified website Kijiji in search of a city rental unit, said she got a suspicious response Aug. 7, from someone using the name Louisa Bergeron. Claiming that she was from Prince Edward Island, Bergeron emailed Phillips, writing that she would mail her a set of keys if Phillips sent a completed rental application and, crucially, rent money.
Bizarrely, Bergeron refused to give an address for the putative rental, citing “security and burglar reasons,” nor did she specify how much money Phillips was to send. The rental was in a “Conducive and Nice area close to everything” (sic) with utilities included, Bergeron wrote. Pets were allowed, provided that Phillips listed their names and what “kind of pets” they were.
“I was quite excited at first!” Phillips told The Gazette. “I thought, ‘Oh, someone’s actually responding to my post! That’s great!’”
Phillips then realized that, whoever Bergeron was, they probably weren’t acting in good faith. “I wrote back saying, ‘this is a scam, isn’t it?’”
Continuing her search, Phillips was contacted by another fishy landlord, also claiming to be from Atlantic Canada.
A Frank Weyforth of Prince Edward Island contacted Phillips on Aug. 9, offering to rent her a “garden suite” in a large home on the 200-block of Golden Way.
“How many months rent can you pay upfront (sic)?” Weyforth asked. Would it be the one-month minimum, or would she pay for three months and get the last month free?
Noting the acute shortage of rental housing in the region, Phillips said she wanted to warn renters who might be less inclined to scrutinize offers that sound too good to be true.
“I was thinking about all the people looking for rentals in Southeastern B.C. who might be taken in by this sort of thing,” she said.
Phillips said she reported Bergeron and Weyforth to Kijiji. A website representative has since responded, telling her that they are investigating both instances.
The RCMP meanwhile suggests that renters sign proper tenancy agreements with their prospective landlords. Landlords should have no problem handing over photo ID that shows the same address as the one listed on their portion of the agreement.
Renters are further warned not to pay for rent or deposits in cash. Personal cheques, money orders, bank drafts or certified cheques are better alternatives, according to an RCMP press release.
Kijiji warns users of a host of scams, including rental scams, on its website. The Gazette had not received replies from the email addresses associated with either Bergeron or Weyforth as of Aug. 11.