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Former Calgary resident warns others about rental scam

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A former Calgarian is warning others about the pitfalls of rental scams after losing more than $5,000 to a fraudulent landlord while looking for apartments in Vancouver.

Last year, Carlha Perez began apartment hunting online from her home in Calgary a few weeks before transferring to the West Coast for work.

She came across an ideal listing on Facebook Marketplace for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in downtown Vancouver, pet-friendly and fully furnished for $3,100 per month to rent.

Anticipating moving from Calgary to Vancouver in time for Sept. 1, she sent an e-transfer of $5,400 dollars to cover the first month's rent as well as security and pet deposits.

On Aug. 30, all contact from the would-be landlord was cut off.

"My calls weren't going through. I tried calling from my husband's phone and nothing. We sent emails and everything. That's when we knew [it was a scam]," said Perez.

She stayed in Calgary for another month before eventually finding a legitimate rental in Vancouver, but without the true identity of the fraudulent landlord, police told her there was little action to take.

"So we just sort of cut our losses and have accepted that we're probably never going to get that money back," said Perez.

She contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which says rental scams rank seventh among the top 10 scams reported by Canadians in 2022.

Officials at the BBB say just five per cent of victims of frauds or scams end up reporting it.

Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO for BBB Alberta and East Kootenay, says there are red flags to watch out for.

"If you're sending money, where are you sending it? Is it a trusted and secure link? Is [the account the] same name as the property management company?" she said.

She adds that property management companies that are registered and rated well are likely to be better choices.

Perez hopes her story helps others.

"I think if people will talk a little bit more about it, then maybe [rental scams will] happen less."

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