Winnipeg family latest victim of online condo rental scam
$1,300 deposit lost, similar ads still circulating on other sites
A Winnipeg couple is warning prospective renters not to fall for an online condo rental scam after they lost more than a thousand dollars over the holidays.
After finding what appeared to be a fully furnished, privately owned condo for rent in Winnipeg's Waverley West neighbourhood on an online classified ad earlier in December, Crystal Freeman and her husband Daimon Freeman transferred $1,300 for a deposit to what they believed was a legitimate property management company.
A day before the deal was to be finalized, they got a request for another $1,300. They never got the promised keys to the condo that were supposed to arrive by courier.
They realized they had been the target of a scam artist and that completely deflated their holiday spirit.
"The keys and the lease agreement was to be sent on Monday; we would get the delivery details on Monday," Crystal said.
The man they negotiated with seemed genuine over the course of many phone conversations, she said.
"We were suspicious at first, and as soon as we started talking to him it just, it seemed more at like a personal level with him, than just renting out this random place," she said.
Identical ads still circulating
Crystal Freeman is warning Winnipeggers that she found a similar scam using the same pictures posted online on Craigslist.ca, advertising the Bridgeland Drive property and using the same email address as the one she communicated with from usedwinnipeg.com.
The couple said the person on the other end of the line, who went by the name of Darrel Proca and had a British accent, explained that he bought the property while working in Winnipeg, but his contract unexpectedly ended.
He proceeded to explain that he moved back to England to be with his family, but chose to keep the Waverley West condo as a rental property.
The Freemans said they had multiple conversation with the man and even transacted with a man they believed was a broker named Frank Duras who claimed to work for the large U.K.-based property management company called Zoopla. Ultimately, the couple felt confident about the deal and decided to not pass up the opportunity.
"He would answer questions, he would answer email right away, he would answer our phone calls any time we called, so we went ahead and sent the $1,300," said Freeman.
The couple transferred the money using a legitimate service called Moneygram after selling off several household items to come up with the necessary funds. After refusing to provide the additional funds being requested by email just a few days before Christmas, the alleged condo owner simply went silent, Crystal said.
The couple has since filed reports with the Winnipeg police, Zoopla, Moneygram and British authorities.
They're now looking for a new place to live with their two children, four-month-old Leah and seven-year-old Keagin, as they must vacate their existing Stonewall, Man., home by the end of the month.
For anyone looking to rent a property, Daimon Freeman advises to not deal with anyone living outside of the country.