After nearly losing $500 to the Real Estate Scam, an Altona-area woman is urging potential renters to be careful. Lorraine Friesen responded to an online ad for a house available for rent in Altona, and says it seemed legitimate.
"They wanted to know how long I could lease it, one to three years is what they were suggesting. They had the form ready for all of the information that they needed. Everything was there," she explained, adding the 'homeowner' also had a reason for why they weren't living in the house. "They were doing mission work [...] and basically they were not going to sell it (the house), they were just going to rent it."
She ended up sending an e-transfer for the $500 damage deposit, however her bank flagged the transaction and her money was returned. "They caught it! (I) didn't lose a penny."
"It's a bit of a traumatic experience because now you're kind of not trusting people. It's a hard lesson to learn, so I hope no one else goes through that. Please just be aware of it," added Friesen, noting the experience has left her feeling taken advantage of. She urges people to do their due diligence when making online transactions, noting these scams do exist in our community.
Turns out, scammers had taken a photo of the house, which is actually for sale, off a local realtor's website and used it as a front for their scheme.
As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20, and looking back, Friesen notes there were some small red flags throughout the transaction.
"There was no appliances in there. I couldn't figure out why they wouldn't have appliances if they were living there and then went to do mission work in Ontario," she said. "There's these little things that come in and you go, 'Okay, that doesn't really make sense'. Then that's the reason, because something is wrong."
Altona Police Chief Dan Defer confirmed Friesen's close call was reported to their office, and said to his knowledge, this is the first real estate scam complaint that has come in. He noted, reports of various other online scams are constantly filtering into the police station, adding it's getting harder and harder for people to verify what's legitimate and what isn't.
When dealing with online ads, he urged users to be aware that scammers are everywhere and added, if it sounds to good to be true, odds are it is.
If they are local ads, check the email address. Ask yourself, does the email address look correct, or does it appear to be an out of country email address? If phone numbers are provided, again, ask yourself, are they local? When it comes to real estate scams, Defer encourages speaking to one of the local realtors, noting they most likely will be in-the-know as Altona is a small market community.
"Being suspicious in todays online market place should be the norm, unfortunately," he said.
Prior to sending payment or credit card numbers, Defer also urged users to be sure the person they are dealing with is actually who they report to be. He said, generally speaking, once money is sent, it is almost impossible to retrieve it.