Friday, July 19, 2024

Ottawa police warn residents to avoid Facebook Marketplace when looking for a place to rent

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CTV News continues to hear from residents who fall victim to rental scams in Ottawa, with scammers creating elaborate schemes to steal people’s money.

One local mother is out $13,000.

“It was absolutely everything I wanted for my family,” said Ottawa resident Lesley Eastabrook.

When Eastabrook’s application was accepted to rent a home in Barrhaven in March, she was thrilled.

The mom of three had taken her son to see the property in-person after speaking with who she thought was the listing agent named Sherry.

“She was standing on the driveway the front door was already open there were other people already inside the place,” said Eastabrook.

After signing the lease, Eastabrook sent $13,000 including first and last month’s rent and an additional four months of rent up front.

“She came back and said your landlord is willing to reduce your rent, I forget the exact words but they want it off the market and they’re willing to lower it a little bit, and I was like well then I want a two-year lease,” said Eastabrook.

But when it came time to getting the keys, that’s when she found out it was all a scam.

“She messaged me in the morning and was like the landlords are not comfortable, they want another $1,800 and I was like I don’t have $1,800,” said Eastabrook. “I tried to call Sherry back the number was dead and that’s how I knew that things were not right.”

She still doesn’t know how the fake agent got into the property, but it’s an all too familiar story with police who say criminals are getting more brazen — taking information from real listings, impersonating real estate agents and holding fake showings.

“Rental scams have been around for a while but this clearly is an evolution,” said Staff Sgt. Cameron Graham, with the Ottawa Police Service organized fraud unit. “People have learned that they don’t rent properties over the internet but they actually have go see them in person.”

Police are going as far as to tell people to stay away from Facebook Marketplace altogether and as unrealistic as that may sound, they say it’s full of scams like this.

In some cases, scammers are sending prospective tenants to real open houses. But sometimes, they’re actually breaking into properties to show the home.

“It’s quite alarming and I’ve heard quite a few actual complaints about it now,” said Curtis Fillier, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “It seems to just be recurring over and over, so we’re actually putting out a broadcast to all of our membership that they have to be very vigilant.”

Fillier says all real estate agents carry what’s called a RECO ID, so if you’re meeting with someone who says they’re an agent, you can ask to see verification.

The real listings from are showing up on Facebook pages like Khs Hallmark and Bsv Liberty.

As for Estabrook, she’s getting ready to move to Quebec, hoping to put this nightmare behind her.

“I’ll believe it when I move in,” said Eastabrook. “It’s happening this weekend, so I am super excited. It’s been hard to rehash this all over again but we need to get that awareness out there to everybody.” 

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