House in Edmonton used as property for rental scam for years, deceived dozens of people

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Edmonton (September 12, 2019) – A house in Edmonton’s Dickensfield neighbourhood has been advertised in rental scams for at least four years. Actual tenants state, about a dozen people per year knock on their door expecting to move in, Global News reported. After numerous complaints, police are investigating.

In the last four years, a rental scam in Edmonton has deceived about a dozen people every year. A house in the Dickensfield neighbourhood has been advertised in numerous fraudulent ads and schemes on the internet. The scammers prey on people who are desperate to move, as emotions can make people more vulnerable to their schemes, police say.

‘Not for rent, it’s a scam.’

Marissa Goulding and her boyfriend are the most recent victims of the rental scam. Global News reports, they were looking for a new place to live with cheaper rent since Goulding recently lost her job. They posted an ad on Kijiji and a month later, they got a text from a man offering them a house that met their exactly requirements. The man, who was claiming to be the landlord, sent them pictures of the house and during the process, they also talked to him on the phone. The rent was affordable for the couple and the fake landlord informed them that they would not need to make the first payment until after they moved in. He asked for a $700 damage deposit in advance though.

Goulding requested to see the house in person, but the scammer pretended that the only viewing opportunity would be at a time she was not available. So, the couple filled out a lease agreement from ‘Alberta Real Estate – Residential Tenancy Branch’ provided by the scammer and payed the $700 damage deposit. Everything looked very legitimate to them until the day before they were supposed to move. At that point, the fake landlord started making excuses and tried to push back the moving date. Eventually, Golding went to the house, she thought they rented and knocked on the door. The actual tenants opened and told her about the scam. The woman and her husband have been renting the place for four years already and unfortunately, Golding was not the first crushed rental scam victim to show up at their door. In the course of four years, they have shed light upon the scam to dozens of people who thought they would move into their home. For months, they had put up a sign in their window saying ‘Not for rent, it’s a scam.’

The police have already received numerous complaints according to Global News. The investigation confirmed that neither the real tenants nor the true landlord, are involved in the fraud. Unfortunately, the information given to Goulding and her husband by the bogus landlord was all fake. According to the police, the names indicated on the lease agreement ‘Peter Deke Berg’ and his wife ‘Mary Lynn Berg’ are aliases and the provided address in Halifax does not exist.

Rental Scam Scheme

This incident is very typical of rental scams. The scheme usually involves creating an online ad for rentals in a preferred location, asking for a price below average. The fraudsters constellate the ads with pictures, property descriptions, and addresses of other publications. Then they portray themselves as landlords currently working overseas or not living in the area where the property is located. They often give interested parties a rental questionnaire or lease agreement which asks for personal information of the potential fraud victims and request a damage deposit or first (and last) month’s rent in advance. Once, they receive the funds, they disappear and leave their victims without a new home and out of the advance payments.

How to avoid becoming a victim

To prevent becoming a victim of a rental scam, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Edmonton police recommend to go to the address of the new home in person and confirm its availability. It is also advisable to check all given information by the landlord such as addresses, names, etc. Sending funds in advance to strangers or giving a social insurance number should be avoided.

Individuals who become a victim of a rental scam are advised to file a report with the police, contact the publisher behind the ad, and file a complaint with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. In case, sensitive information was provided on lease applications or similar, Equifax and Transunion should be contacted as well.