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Quinte Landlords warn about rental scams

Quinte Landlord’s Association President Robert Gentile and property manager Heather Buikema expose an online rental scam targeting local tenants.

Quinte Landlord’s Association President Robert Gentile and property manager Heather Buikema expose an online rental scam targeting local tenants.

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 warning prospective tenants not to become victims of an online rental scam surfacing in the region.

An online ad that appeared on the Belleville Craigslist website listed 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 response 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,” she said. “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.”

Buikema exchanged texts with the poster and was told that they had the keys and paperwork in the US and could send them in exchange for a collateral deposit of a few hundred dollars.

Quinte Landlord’s Association President Robert Gentile noted the details were also given to Belleville Police as this kind of fraud is becoming more common.

“But if a tenant knows what to look for they can “smell them a mile away,” he said. “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.”

“Heather did the right thing bringing this to our attention so we can warn local tenants. She works with mentally challenged adults who along with seniors are more likely to be victimized by this kind of scam,” he added.

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.

The Quinte Landlord’s Association advises tenants to be on alert for these warning signs:
1. Unusually low rent.
2. Communication is by text or email only.
3. A rental deposit is required before seeing the apartment.
4. Only cash or wired funds are accepted.
5. Personal information is being requested such as SIN, bank or credit card information.
6. It’s difficult to determine if the person is the actual owner or property manager.
Gentile encourages all landlords in the Quinte region to send these tips to their tenants so they do not get scammed on their next apartment.

Filed Under: Local News

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