Woman left homeless after being targeted by rental scam
Published Friday, June 29, 2012 5:30PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, June 29, 2012 7:30PM ADT
A Halifax woman has discovered she was targeted by a scam artist, and now she has no idea where her family is going to live come Monday.
Angela Hiltz says all her things are packed, but she has nowhere to put them.
She was ready to move a houseful of furniture and other belongings into a new rental home this weekend. She first saw an ad posted online and it seemed like a great deal – a nice home in a good neighbourhood. She says the pictures of the interior were enticing and no credit check was required – just a security deposit.
“They asked for a $1,200 email money transfer but they told me I could send it from myself to myself, or to a friend, to verify that they’re not going to scam me or rip me off,” explains Hiltz.
This morning, she says she began to feel uneasy about the arrangement so she called the homeowner.
She says they were astonished to find out that someone had posted an ad online, offering their home for rent. Hiltz discovered it’s not a rental property and the owner has been living in the home for more than 20 years.
Hiltz says her $1,200 is gone and someone had used her verification number to cash it out somewhere in Ontario.
Police say they have seen this scam before.
“When you send money by way of a transfer or wire transfer that money can be picked up anywhere, as long as they have that tracking number,” explains Const. Brian Palmeter.
Palmeter warns that rental scams are easy in the world of online commerce. A real house can be selected in a city and interior shots can be plucked from anywhere in the world.
It can be made to look legitimate, but police say people can protect themselves from being taken advantage of.
“First is not to rent an apartment without seeing it or having somebody see it,” says Palmeter. “You want to make sure somebody or yourself has contact with the landlord.”
Palmeter says rental scams are most often perpetrated on college and university students who are coming to Halifax in September to start school. A more common scam is for a phony landlord to rent out a property to numerous clients before disappearing with security deposits and rental money.
However, cheques are much easier to trace than cash or wire transfers.
Hiltz admits she wishes she had knocked on the door of her would-be rental home before she wired the money, especially since the home in which she was living in has been rented to someone else.
Hiltz needs to be out by Monday and now she’s left wondering where she’s going to live.
“That’s a good question. I have no idea.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw