After being the target of rental scams, one woman is still searching for a place to live in Kelowna.
Christina Harwood-Jones has been searching for a rental for months, to better service her epilepsy.
The Greenwood resident is unable to work because of her condition and has been taking the Greyhound for trials at Kelowna General Hospital. Her hope is to extend her life by being closer to treatment.
After also being the target of rental scams in her search to find housing and is warning the public after finding advertisements for rentals on free sites like Craigslist and Kijiji that turned out to be false.
“I emailed a couple of them… he sent me pictures of himself, he sent me pictures of whatever, him and his dad. He could’ve taken this off of anything though,” she said.
Friends of hers drove by the suspected scam house, located on Sadler Road.
They said it was a nice looking house, said Harwood-Jones.
The rental ad is listed as a three-bedroom house with a heated workshop for $1,300, including utilities.
The price and size of the house seemed unrealistic to Harwood-Jones, so she contacted Remax Kelowna and the RCMP
The advertiser also repeatedly asked her for a damage deposit, which she refused to pay.
The RCMP told her there was nothing they could do.
The phone number given to her by the fake landlord is from Nigeria, in Africa so the police weren’t able to do anything, she said.
There was more posted on the sites with a similar ad style, she said.
“Maybe by knowledge people will just be more aware and reference all of their stuff before they give deposits.”
The address in the scam is a listed house for sale with Remax, said Peter Kirk, owner and managing broker of Remax Kelowna.
“It’s something I hear about periodically. I usually get calls from one of our agents… and our advice generally is to contact Craigslist or Kijiji and let them know about it,” he said.
“It’s not something we have any ability to control because someone could put any address in and unfortunately it’s the freedom of the Internet.”
Kirk said the company has been advising agents to put ‘not for rent’ signs above the ‘for sale’ signs in order to deter scammers and let the public know.
However, he said “the best advice to people in never ever send money into something unless it’s bonafide.”
Harwood-Jones pointed to other issues she’s facing in Kelowna’s low-vacancy rental market, which has added stress to her situation.
She was hoping to find housing before January, with her significant other Lyndon Lee and her two children, but with Kelowna’s vacancy rates being some of the lowest in the country, it has been difficult.
“The hospital in Grand Forks can’t deal with me,” she said. “I’m basically moving here so I can have an extended life because I have two children.”
Her hope is that others will become aware of the rental scams and that she will be able to find a place to live in Kelowna.
The RCMP offered several tips to prevent residents from becoming scammed:
– physically go to the property and book a viewing, when searching for rentals
– conduct your own open source queries to ensure the advertisement isn’t a duplicate
– do not transfer funds to unknown individuals
– trust your instincts, if it doesn’t seem right, don’t do it
– consult with a friend or family member first
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