Beware the ‘Whistler’ scam, warns Delta Police

People are losing money to scammers using Craigslist to rent out vacation properties.

Thinking of booking a holiday rental?

Delta Police are warning the public to be careful, as scammers are heading off with booking payments.

The scam involves “rental” properties in Whistler and elsewhere found on Craigslist. In all cases, the property either does not exist or has no connection with the scammer.

The scams follow a predictable pattern, police say.

The victim finds a Whistler property advertised on Craigslist for rent and contacts the scammer by the provided email. Once the victim expresses interest in the rental, they are sent an email from the scammer, which confirms the rental dates are available and instructs the victim to send an email Interac E-transfer as payment.

Once the funds are transferred, the victim never hears from the scammer again, or, the victim shows up at the arranged location weeks later with luggage in hand, only to discover that the rental doesn’t exist.

The scammers are using fake email addresses (usually gmail type) that match stolen IDs that the scammer uses to add legitimacy.

In some cases, the scammer requests the victims send a copy of their ID with their emails, which are then copied and used in turn to create the next profile.

To date, Delta Police has linked more than six Lower Mainland victims of the scam, all of whom booked and paid fully for a Whistler rental for the Christmas period before becoming suspicious and discovering the rental did not exist.  Police have confirmed the scam has extended to victims across Canada and Washington State.

The Delta Police investigation is ongoing, and anyone who believes they may be a victim of the scam should contact their local police department and make additional checks to confirm their rental before leaving.

Tips for online safety:

  • If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t be fooled by photography. Check the address exists on an actual map. Use Google Earth and Google Street View to confirm the property actually exists and matches the photos you have been sent.
  • Never make Interac E-transfers, wire transfers or prepaid credit card payments to individuals you don’t know personally. They are the same as using cash.
  • Never email scans of ID or personal information.
  • Use a reputable rental management company or property agent – preferably a local one.
  • Confirm ownership and legitimacy of the property. Confirm the owner’s names on the lease or documents is the same as the one shown on public records. Conduct an online search of the owner’s name and the property.
  • Trust your instincts. There is no need to rush into rental and a legitimate owner should be able to provide all the details you ask for.

 

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