When a woman with four children arrived on their doorstep, Murrayville residents Lillian and Dwain Seymour had to let her know she wouldn’t be moving in.
“She had already given notice,” Dwain recalled. “I told her, it’s [our house] not for rent, never has, never will be.”
Shocked, the woman told the Seymours she had handed over an $800 deposit to a person she met in a coffee shop, believing they were behind an ad on the Craigslist website that displayed genuine photos taken of the exterior of the Seymour’s property in the 3600-block of 224th St., but fake interior photos taken from some other source.
“Her bags were packed,” Lillian recalled.
“She was homeless.”
Four different people have showed up at the Seymour’s home in less than a month, lured by the online ad.
There have been others, who the retired couple have noticed stopping to have a look, then leaving.
As it turned out, the online ad – which has reportedly been taken down – told would-be tenants not to knock on the door or go onto the property, so as not to disturb the “current tenants.”
Lillian said it all started with a phone call in early September from a woman who claimed to be with a real estate company.
She asked if their house was for rent, and when Lillian said it wasn’t, the caller kept asking questions until Lillian hung up.
A few days later, a man drove into their front yard, and told the couple he was looking to rent a place for a friend.
That was when they learned about the online for-rent ad.
The couple reported the incident to police, who told them to contact Craigslist and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online.
Lillian said they tried, but it was a frustrating experience, because the anti-fraud centre and Craigslist could only be reached by email.
As of Wednesday, the fraud line has posted a message apologizing for “intermittent disruptions with our toll-free telephone line that may cause your call to be disconnected.”
“You can’t phone anyone any more,” Lillian said.
They decided to go public to warn people about the scam.
Langley RCMP Cpl. Holy Largy said people need to take basic precautions when responding to a rental ad.
“Don’t rent a place sight unseen,” Largy advised. “Don’t hand money over before viewing a property.”
“If it seems to be good to be true, it probably is,” Largy added.
Better Business Bureau reports this type of scam has been going on for several years across all provinces on websites like Craigslist and Kijiji.
The agency recommends searching online for the listings, or the scammer’s email address or phone number.
If you find the same ad being posted and located in other cities then you can be sure it’s a scam, the BBB says.