Ottawa Police say housing scam is a big fraud issue
Published Thursday, March 3, 2016 6:00PM EST Last Updated Thursday, March 3, 2016 6:07PM EST
An Ottawa man has his driveway back; a Napanee woman has her furniture back.
But a host of victims are left in the wake of a housing scam that police say is too common. The mystery over who dumped a house full of furniture on Kit Pullen's driveway has been solved.
The woman from Napanee thought she was renting the Pullen’s Ottawa home on Parkglen Drive.
Who has her money, though, is still up in the air.
Today, homeowner Kit Pullen is happy to be able to access his garage and driveway, after a very strange day yesterday.
It started with the arrival of house full of furniture on his driveway in the middle of the night, with no idea as to who it belonged to or why it was there.
“There’s an air conditioner, a chair, a couch, a vacuum,” Pullen said yesterday as he pointed to the mountain of boxes and materials outside his house.
“It’s a total mystery,” he added.
By Tuesday evening, the guys who had delivered it in a UHaul in the middle of the night were back packing it up, after a frantic phone call from the woman who owned it all. Nikki Wilson had thought she had rented the Pullen's house. She got scammed.
Pullen explains what he was told happened, “She went on Kijiji and found our property listed and agreed to rent it and transferred $900 to someone.”
In an interview with Kijiji, however, it is their understanding that Wilson posted a wanted ad, looking for a place to live in Ottawa with specific criteria, including two bedrooms.
“This person contacted her through her phone number, texting her or calling her, and offered her a place to rent which wasn’t in their possession to rent,” says Shawn McIntyre, the Manager of Community & Communications with Kijiji.
“It’s a very prevalent fraud scam,” says Staff Sergeant Stephanie Burns with the Ottawa Police Fraud Unit.
Police say the scammers often want money up front and have a list of excuses as to why renters can't see the property before they rent.
“When they get there, it's an abandoned house or somebody else's house or the house doesn't even exist in the first place,” says Burns.
Police say this housing scam is a particular issue in August and September, targeting out of town students who are looking for a place to rent.
Police say there are several red flags that signal a housing scam including rental rates that are well below market rates, out of country owners or landlords and demands for an immediate deposit.
“I think it's straightforward,” says one student at the University of Ottawa, “don't mail money to anyone without meeting them.”
“You see, don't pay for something if it's not seen,” adds another.
All great advice after the fact for Nikki Wilson, who is out $900 and for the Pullens who were caught in the middle of all this.
“It makes me feel like somebody should get hung,” adds Kit Pullen.
If there's one positive out of all this, the story has garnered a lot of attention. Kit Pullen has been on ABC and CNN news, spreading the word about a housing scam that can dupe anyone.