Paying a deposit of hundreds of dollars for an apartment that doesn’t exist is an expensive fraud and one that is on the rise. The Quinte Landlord’s Association is trying to prevent local tenants from becoming the latest victims.
The association recently discovered an online rental scam targeting Quinte area tenants and is sending out a warning. An online ad appeared on the Belleville Craigslist website listing a one bedroom apartment at 48 Yeomans Street for $700 a month. The ad has since been removed. Trenton property manager Heather Buikema uncovered the fraud and reported it to the association. “When I responded to the ad on behalf of a tenant looking for a place, the poster tried to con me into sending a deposit before seeing the apartment.” Buikema said. “They claimed to live in the US and didn’t have anyone locally to show the apartment for them.” Being an experienced property manager the odd responses raised red flags for Buikema. She drove to the rental address to speak with the superintendent who confirmed there were no vacancies. “That’s when I knew for sure this was a scam and went into undercover mode to get more information.” Buikema posed as a tenant to get as much information out of the scammers as possible. “I now have their phone number, bank account and the bank’s head office address.”
The posters identified themselves as Brandon and Marie Matteucci with a user ID of mariematteucci9 and a San Francisco based phone number of 415-325-3103.
President of the Quinte Landord’s Association Robert Gentile says these kinds of frauds are becoming more common but if a tenant knows what to look for they can “smell them a mile away.” According to Gentile, legitimate landlords never ask for deposits without meeting the tenant, showing the unit, and providing a rental application. And they normally have someone close by managing the building if they are not doing it themselves. Gentile says there are a variety of rental scams but the two most two common scenarios are:
Scenario A: the scammer poses as a landlord claiming to be out of the country and requires a rental deposit. Once the funds are received they disappear and the tenants realize too late that there is no apartment.
Scenario B: the fraudster has been able to access a property and pretends they are the landlord. The renter pays them a cash deposit to secure the apartment. On move-in day the victim tries to move in but discovers there are existing tenants in the apartment.