British Columbia

More than 2 dozen female real estate agents targeted by obscene calls and messages in B.C.

More than two dozen women who work in the real estate industry in the Vancouver area and on Vancouver Island have been targeted by someone sending obscene images and making threatening phone calls, CBC has learned.

Vancouver police are investigating calls and messages that began a few months ago

Officers with the Vancouver Police Department are investigating a series of obscene phone calls and messages targeting female real estate agents. (KieferPix / Shutterstock)

More than two dozen women who work in the real estate industry in the Vancouver area and on Vancouver Island have been targeted by someone sending obscene images and making threatening phone calls, CBC has learned.

Colette Gerber, chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, described it as a "very sad situation" that began a few months ago and has continued at least through last week.

"In the evenings, a male would call one of our members — always women — and harass them with explicit images, texts and phone calls. It's been quite scary for them," Gerber said.

"Once we became aware of it, we encouraged our members who had interactions with this individual to file a police report."

Female real estate agents in multiple cities have been targeted and reports have been made to at least six police agencies, according to internal board emails obtained by CBC, but the majority are being handled by the Vancouver Police Department.

VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin confirmed the calls are being investigated by the domestic violence and criminal harassment unit, but said she couldn't provide any further details.

To date, there have been no reports of physical harm.

About two dozen women in the Vancouver area have received the calls, according to Gerber, but they've also been reported in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

Realtor Brittany Pickard of Duncan told CBC she's one of at least eight women in the area who've been targeted. She said she received the first call from an unknown number shortly before midnight on a recent night.

"You're kind like, why is someone calling so late? Then he called again and again," she said. "Then he started sending pornographic photos, and telling me what he wanted me to do to him and what he wanted to do to me." 

Realtor Brittany Pickard says she's one of at least eight female real estate agents in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island who've received the obscene phone calls. (Brittany Pickard)

Pickard said she can't help thinking of what happened to Lindsay Buziak, a real estate agent who was stabbed to death while showing an empty home in a Saanich cul-de-sac in 2008.

"It's violating, it makes you feel unsafe," she said.

More than a decade later, Buziak's murder remains unsolved, although this week Saanich police said they have new leads and are now working with the FBI.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board says it's aware of the calls, and is asking those affected to file a report with local RCMP.

'Just plain wrong'

Gerber said the person responsible appears to be using spoofed phone numbers, altering their caller ID information to disguise their identity. That makes the calls difficult to trace.

"When this person calls, they start out talking about real estate and then very quickly it devolves into somewhat threatening conversations," she said.

According to an email from board staff to the affected women, the man will sometimes say his father or father-in-law is moving into a care home and needs to sell his house.

Gerber said this isn't the first time local female realtors have received calls from a serial harasser. A similar situation happened about three years ago, but the calls stopped after police identified the person responsible and told him officers were watching, she said.

Similar cases have also been reported in Alberta and in Ontario.

"Any time that we hear of harassment of our members, women or men, in any way, shape or form, we get very concerned," Gerber said.

"When you get harassed for doing your job or harassed for, in this case, just being female, that's just plain wrong."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story suggested Vancouver police are investigating calls to women in multiple cities. In fact, they are only investigating calls received in Vancouver.
    Feb 03, 2021 12:24 PM PT

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

With files from Isabelle Raghem

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