Fraudsters target classified ad website users

A Sudbury landlord says a close call with an online scam has left him more cautious when posting on classifieds sites like Kijiji and Craigslist.

Online scamming often involves victims sending funds through Western Union money transfers

After being the target of an online scammer, Sudbury landlord Denis Dormer says he'll be more careful when it comes to those who respond to his online rental advertisements. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

A Sudbury landlord says a close call with an online scam has left him more cautious when posting on classifieds sites like Kijiji and Craigslist.

This comes as the RCMP's Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says online scams are becoming increasingly elaborate and difficult to identify.

Just ask Denis Dormer, who discovered he was the target of a scam after posting an ad on Kijiji for a room rental two weeks ago.

"I got an email from somebody named Julie Chen," he said.

"She says she was a cook on a cruise ship. She planned on moving to Sudbury on Feb. 4 and wanted to rent the room for three months."

Dormer said the woman eventually sent him a fake PayPal email, saying his money — plus an extra moving fee — had been transfered to his account.

But then: "I got the email asking me to reimburse her through Western Union money transfer."

It was at that point Dormer realized his correspondence with Julie had been a scam.

'Doing a lot of damage'

Dormer is not the only one who was almost tricked.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says there have been more than 1,300 reported incidents of fraud in Sudbury since 2008.

"On the face of it, [there are] no great big real bells and whistles that would scream at you and say this has to be a fraud," centre spokesperson Daniel Williams said.

Williams said scammers target sites like Kijiji and Craigslist because it's a free way to contact potential victims.

Dormer said his near-scam encounter has made him more cautious.

"This is a first for me," he said. "I'll just keep my eye open. I guess due diligence is important."

Williams noted online scamming is a multi-million dollar industry that often involves victims sending funds through a Western Union money transfer. For those who've fallen for a scam, it's important to contact police immediately.

"If there's any chance to recover your money, you have to act immediately. Usually the window of opportunity of recovering money is extremely narrow."