Looking for a good roommate may be hard, but some Montreal tenants have been dealing with friendly offers from fraudsters who pretend to be looking for a new home.
Through a series of elaborate emails, a scammer managed to gain the trust, sympathy and $1,500 from Yemi Houemavo, who had posted an ad looking for a roommate on Kijiji, a popular classifieds website.
Houemavo was looking for a new roommate to share his apartment for the price of $550 per month on Montreal's Plateau Mont-Royal.
Nelson Bryant, from Gothenburg in Sweden, claimed to be moving to Montreal and seemed to be a perfect fit for Houemavo's lifestyle.
A few days after making the initial contact on July 17, Bryant called Houemavo.
"[He called me] from the hospital telling me that his mom just died a few seconds. I was with my friends, like at the party, and I just felt terribly bad for him," said Houemavo.
Bryant added that his employer, who was allegedly paying for his move, had mistakenly sent his rental deposit and the money to cover the costs of shipping his belongings to Houemavo's residence.
The $2,000 check arrived in Montreal shortly after.
Bryant asked Houemavo to send $1,450 of this cheque to Samiel Daniel, who allegedly works for the shipping company.
Houemavo made plans with Daniel by email to send him the funds through Western Union. When Houemavo said it would take a few days for the cheque from Bryant to clear due to bank processes, Daniel urged him to cash the cheque at a cash-advance business.
Days after Houemavo sent the funds, the cheque sent by Bryant bounced and Houemavo was short $1,450.
In an email on August 8, Bryant sent the following email:
I wasn't feeling too good all this while and went to the hospital and was told my blood pressure had shot up. The doctor had advised me to take a one-month break.
I got in touch with my employer regarding this news and he told me to make it two months as he wants me to fully recover from the untimely death of my mum before I resume work.
I will not be needing the place again and it would be impolitic of me to ask you to return the whole rent. You can have $400 and send me $150. I am sorry for any inconveniences this development may have caused. I asked my shipper to put [a] hold on shipping and also return the funds he has with him. I will be glad if you sent the $150 to me today via Western Union to my cousin's name and address below as I was told to take a bed rest.
Thanks and God bless.
I will make sure I visit you when I finally come around as you have been a nice and wonderful person."
Canada's Anti Fraud Centre says this story is common. In fact, the same fraud has been reported in other provinces.
Senior anti-fraud specialist Daniel Williams says it can take banks up to seven weeks to realize a cheque is fake.
He said fraudsters are stealing millions of dollars from Canadians every year in overpayment cheque scams.