A woman who is just one of 10 victims in a rental scam is speaking out after she was duped out of $1,800 by a prolific suspect, who Victoria Police say is facing 36 different fraud-related charges.
Rachel—whose identity CHEK News is protecting—began the process of moving from Alberta to Victoria for school with her boyfriend earlier this year. The two stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for a one-bedroom apartment downtown with all utilities included for $1,800 and quickly inquired.
“We saw the place and we saw this guy multiple times, he let us into multiple buildings,” said Rachel. “He called our references, he went through and ticked all the boxes.”
Rachel paid a $900 deposit in cash and the couple signed a lease. Throughout the next few months and on the day they moved in, the landlord kept in contact.
Until they arrived in Victoria with everything packed in a U-Haul. The two met with their landlord and gave him a half month’s rent and handed them keys to their new home.
“He said he would just be back in a moment and so I turned around and tried the key fob on the outside of the building and it didn’t work,” said the woman.
After multiple unanswered calls and messages to their landlord, the two learned they were scammed and weren’t the only ones after posting their experience online on Reddit.
“It was very quickly that I realized that this is bigger than just what happened to us,” said Rachel.
On Wednesday, VicPD announced they made two arrests in a string of rental frauds. Bowen Osoko, a spokesperson for the department, says that at least 10 victims are out thousands of dollars at the hands of the two suspects.
“This is the most brazen and elaborate rental scam that I’ve seen in a decade,” said Osoko.
Police say one of the suspects was arrested on a warrant for violating conditions related to 36 different fraud-related charges out of Saanich.
Officers believe there may be more victims in the elaborate rental scams and are asking for more victims to come forward to build their investigation.
“We need to hear from them, the name that they have. We need them to be able to come forward and say ‘this is so and so, and this is the experience that I had with them,'” said Osoko.
Robert Patterson, a lawyer for the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) says this rental fraud scheme is one of many similar cases that he’s seen.
“Many of the rental scams that TRAC sees are more along the lines of someone pretending to rent a place that don’t have access to,” said Patterson.
Patterson says many scams happen during the summer months since it’s a time period where people are moving for school or work. Earlier this year, a report found the vacancy rate in Greater Victoria at just one per cent.
To keep yourself safe, the TRAC lawyer says that people should check for the owner’s name by checking the official land title.
“Our land title system is pretty strict and pretty regimented in terms of being able to show you who the registered owner is,” said Patterson. “It’s a good last line of defense.”
The couple eventually found another place to live through a rental property management company. Rachel hopes that future tenants will take extra precautions when searching for a rental.
“Just see the apartment in person is not enough and anything can be faked,” said Rachel.