Fake tenant cleaning fee latest COVID-19 scam going around
London police warn fraudsters are working on ways to profit from the pandemic
Police say a fake letter that asks apartment building tenants to pay for disinfectant and cleaning supplies appears to be just the latest attempt by con artists to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A letter circulating on social media notified tenants of apartment buildings in London and Windsor, operated by York Property Developments, that they would need to pay a new $5 monthly charge to cover costs of cleaning supplies needed to fight coronavirus.
The letter, which appears to use a copy of York's letterhead, opens with a few sentences about a strained supply chain affecting their ability to get cleaning products
"We are doing our best to acquire the necessary supplies and disinfectants to keep everyone safe," the letter reads. "This has become a frustrating and expensive effort ... to help offset expenses and speed up delivery of the products we are adding a $5.00 charge to everyone's rent."
The letter instructs tenants to not add the charge to their rent now, but instead wait for payment instructions to come in a second letter.
Amina Meddaoui, a property manager with York Property Management, says the letter was not sent by the company. She said York would never add an extra charge in this way, and says no York tenants face rent increases related to the coronavirus outbreak.
The letter may have originated in Windsor, because instead of the email address of York's London head office, it uses an email address of one of York's buildings in Windsor.
'Not a real letter'
In a Facebook post, a tenant of one of York's Windsor buildings said the letter was posted inside his building. Other tenants saw the letter being shared on social media.
"It looks like they took one of our letterheads that we distributed in the past and changed the wording in the body," said Meddaoui. "York is sending out a letter to all residents to let them know that this is not a real letter and they should not be sending rent anywhere other than where they usually send it to."
She said anyone with questions should call or email the company directly.
Meddaoui said the scam letters are surfacing at a time when York is working with tenants who may be facing difficulty coming up with April rent due to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The virus has infected and killed thousands already and is expected to get worse in Canada and the United States in the weeks to come.
"We do not want to take additional rent from anybody. We just want to work with our tenants to make sure we all stay safe and stay healthy during this time," said Meddaoui.
Police say COVID-19 scams are out there
Const. Sandasha Bough of the London Police Service said it's unfortunate to see con artists trying to turn an outbreak into an opportunity for their crimes.
"It's really sad and disconcerting that there are people out there looking to take advantage and prey on vulnerable people during stressful and uncertain times," she said.
Bough said her office has received no reports about the letter seen by some York tenants. Also, she said London police have not been contacted by any victims of this particular scam attempt.
Police have, however, had to warn the public about a handful of other scams related to the outbreak.
Reports of scam attempts include:
- Door to door solicitations for false cleaning services or disinfectant products.
- Offers sent by text and email asking people to invest in on "hot stocks" of products related to fighting coronavirus.
- People trying to buy hand sanitizer, masks and other items cheaply, and quickly sell them at a massive markup.
Bough says anyone who believes they've been defrauded or targeted should call the London police fraud intake line at 519-661-5515 ext. 5257. She also says the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has good information on its website about scams related to the outbreak.