Scammer tried to rent out Penticton home owned by stranger

Rental scam circulating

A Penticton woman is raising the alarm about a scam circulating, after a person responded to her query seeking rental accommodation by trying to rent her a home that was owned by someone else who had no idea what was happening.

Rebecca Cross has been searching for an apartment in Penticton that is pet-friendly, and had posted an ad on Kijiji with her budget and her phone number asking anyone with a rental that might fit to contact her. 

She got a text message this week from a man claiming he had the perfect fit on Rigsby Street, but she could already sense some red flags — she was previously burned by a rental scammer two years ago, losing $1,100 in a supposed deposit for a place that did not materialize. 

"They put the most basic information at the beginning, they all start out the same way, asking how I am, saying that they saw my post that I'm looking for a place to rent," Cross said. "And then they tell you that their rent is exactly what you want."

She was told this house was being offered for $800 per month with utilities included. She immediately Googled the address and tried to confirm the ownership. 

"My sister and I ended up walking over, and at first it looked like no one lives there so I started to think 'Ok, maybe this is [legitimate],'" Cross said. "But when I went back, there was a little old lady in the back doing gardening, and she owns the place. She had no idea."

Cross was disgusted by the scammer's actions, and decided to see what more information she could get out of him in case the actual owner wanted to take legal action. She asked about a viewing, and was immediately rebuffed. 

"His excuse was I can view it from the street because it's locked, no one lives there, and because of the nature of his work he wouldn't be able to come over to show me the place," Cross said. 

He then offered to send pictures via email. Cross said other scammers have tried similar tactics, only ever sending photos via email, never text. In this case, beautiful photos came through to her email, and a follow-up text came through asking whether she had received them. 

"So I asked, why are you renting it for so cheap, because it's a house not an apartment," Cross said, explaining the response came in garbled unclear English with an excuse that made no sense. 

She ended up calling the phone number and discovered it was a TextNow number — a texting and calling app from Ontario. 

Cross hopes that sharing her story will remind others seeking rentals in the Penticton area to be vigilant and trust their gut when red flags are raised. 

"I hope this helps someone else."

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