Montreal

Montreal woman terrified her personal info was posted in escort ads. Did police do enough?

A Montreal woman says police told her little could be done after her name, photograph, phone number and address were posted online in escort ads.

Melissa says she was told little could be done after photo, phone number, address posted in online escort ads

A Montreal woman is living with friends until she finds a new apartment after her picture and personal information were posted online in ads offering escort services. (Sylvain Charest/CBC )

When Melissa started receiving a flurry of texts asking her availability for sex, she thought it was strange but brushed it off as spam.

Hours later, when a strange man knocked on the doors of all the apartments in the Montreal building where she lives, she thought maybe he was lost.

A day and a half later, her nonchalance turned to horror when an acquaintance sent her a link to an escort website.

She clicked on the link and was taken to an ad for an escort — featuring her face, name, phone number and address.

I just want the police to … try to find the guy. I don't even care, I just need to know. I need to know because I'm scared of people every day.- Melissa

"Sexy and kinky," it read. "Very open and willing."

One picture in the ad shows Melissa's face. The photo was taken from her personal Facebook page, unavailable to anyone who isn't a Facebook friend of hers. The second photo shows the side view of a woman — not Melissa — wearing a body suit that barely covers her.

"I was super upset," she said.

At first, she thought it was a bad joke and couldn't believe what had happened. It was "like a movie," she said. 

Melissa is not her real name. CBC News is protecting her identity because she fears whoever is behind posting the ads will escalate their behaviour if her name is published.

The information in the ad suggests whoever posted it knows her well enough to have her address and has access to her Facebook page — but she doesn't know who it could be.

She searched her own name and discovered there were two other escort ads — three in total — in her name.

'They're waiting for something bad to happen'

Melissa went to Montreal police on Aug. 28 — two days after she started receiving text messages from men seeking sex.

She was hoping investigators could track the IP address of the person or people who posted the ads, but she was left disheartened after filing a police report.

She said they told her they won't be able to do anything unless they get a warrant, and they are unlikely to be able to get one.

She said police told her someone would call within the next two weeks.

"They will do nothing, I think," she said.

"They're waiting for something bad to happen."

The ads were taken down when she reported them herself, earlier in the week.

But knowing her personal information was listed online was sufficient to spook her into moving out of her apartment immediately. She's bunking with a friend, but is urgently looking for a new apartment.

In the meantime, she feels paralyzed, not knowing who within her social network is responsible for posting the ads.

"I just want the police to … try to find the guy. I don't even care, I just need to know. I need to know because I'm scared of people every day," she said.

When contacted by CBC News late last week, the Montreal police service said Wednesday it was unable to reach the commander responsible for the fraud department, which is responsible for this file.

A spokesperson said the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) isn't allowed to speak about specific cases.

About the Author

Kate McKenna is a reporter with CBC Montreal. Email her at kate.mckenna@cbc.ca.