A new twist on an old rental scam has popped up in Vancouver, leaving some would-be tenants out of pocket for tens of thousands of dollars.
In what police are calling a sophisticated con, luxury rentals are posted on Craigslist, then interested applicants are offered a discount — worth hundreds of dollars — on the monthly rate to tenants willing to pay a full six months' rent up front.
Kaveh Khalilzadeh thought he was securing a great deal for his parents when he went to view a two-bedroom luxury condo in Vancouver's Shaw Tower.
With views of the water, the condo seemed perfect to Khalilzadeh's parents, who viewed the property twice before signing a lease and agreeing to pay six months' rent — $26,000.
The rental company, operating under the name Pacific Luxury Realty, seemed legitimate to the family — Khalilzadeh's parents' references were even checked — and so they went ahead and deposited the full amount into the company's Bank of Montreal account.
"The day before the moving day, we figured out there [was] something wrong," Khalilzadeh told CBC News.
The family could not gain access to the apartment and Pacific Luxury Realty — along with its website — could not be found.
Khalilzadeh said the building concierge told him he was not alone and that the scammers had rented the unit to several people.
The unit had actually been for sale — for $3 million — and police say the crooks stole the photos from the actual realtor's website and turned them into a rental ad.
It appears they then passed themselves off as the selling agents to gain access to the building.
"We're looking at over $100,000 in relation to one unit," said Sgt. Randy Fincham of the Vancouver police. "This is one scam, one unit, in the city of Vancouver and we do expect it's a lot larger problem than just one unit."
One couple from out of town got a shock when they showed up with their moving truck.
"They knocked on the door [and found out] it was never for rent in the first place, and it was already occupied," Fincher said.
Other luxury highrises in the city have been the site of the same scam he said, including the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
Investigating the bank account the Khalilzadeh's paid their money into, police found that it was fraudulent and the person whose name was attached to it did not exist.
Vancouver police are asking anyone with information to come forward.
CBC News contacted the property managers at Shaw Tower, but received no response to questions.
Meanwhile, Khalilzadeh, who has lost all trust in landlords, is trying to find a home for his parents.
"They're just regular people using their retirement money," he said. "It was a horrible experience, especially for my parents, because they just moved to Canada less than a year ago.
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