Think you're too savvy to fall for the rental scam?
So did a senior Kingsville, Ont., couple — who are the latest local folks to learn first-hand that the scam is being perpetrated in Windsor-Essex.
"Normally, I'm not very susceptible," says Wayne Izsak. "I let my guard down on this one, and it wound up costing me."
Izsak and his wife are out $3,000 that they sent to someone they thought was the landlord of a property in Windsor, Ont.
Now, the money is gone and there's no trace of the supposed owner — who the Izsaks never met in person.
Kingsville resident and recent 'rent scam' victim Wayne Izsak, 77, in his temporary lodgings on Sept. 15, 2023. (Dalson Chen)
It all started in late August when Izsak saw a listing on the website RentBoard.ca.
Izsak and his wife are eager for a new place to live. They're currently in temporary accommodations on a dairy farm in Kingsville, where they've been living since they lost their residence in Essex, Ont., because of a house fire in March 2021.
Part of the reason for their desire to move is the 14-step staircase they need to negotiate daily.
"I am 77. My wife is 76... Every day, it gets harder to climb those stairs," Izsak explained.
Kingsville resident Wayne Izsak looks at a printout of an image taken when his home in Essex was destroyed by a fire in March 2021. Photographed in Izsak's temporary accommodations on Sept. 15, 2023. (Dalson Chen)
The Windsor home in the listing seemed ideal: One storey, reasonable rent, and a nice location in the city.
Izsak communicated with the person responsible for the listing only through email.
The supposed landlord claimed to be away from the region on "church business."
After visiting the address and seeing the exterior of the house, Izsak agreed to rent it.
He was asked to complete rental documents and e-transfer first and last month's rent.
When the fraudster asked for more money, Izsak realized: He was being scammed.
There's been no communication with the supposed landlord since then.
"To me, it's pretty low down," Izsak said. "He's after people my age or older. It's like any of these scams: Most of them are after the people in the 70-plus age group. They're the hardest hit."
Izsak has spoken with his bank, and filed a report with Essex County OPP — but he realizes the chances of recovering the funds or seeing any justice are slim.
Izsak said he understands RentBoard.ca takes no responsibility for the listings on the site, and offers no assurances on the accuracy of the information posted.
In retrospect, Izsak knows he ignored several red flags.
"They had auto-deposit on the e-transfer. Once it's gone — it's gone... (The scammer) could be anybody, could be nobody. We don't have any leads... I wish they'd catch him. I know it's going to be difficult. I don't expect that they will."
"I just got taken up in the event," Izsak reflects. "The rent on this property was within our affordability... That's why I was so anxious to get it. I just fell prey to it — because of our circumstances."
Now Izsak is making his story public so that other Windsor-Essex residents — especially other seniors — are more alert about rental scammers.
"It was a bad mistake on my part. But we were so anxious to find a place."
In June of this year, LaSalle police arrested and laid charges against a 43-year-old woman in relation to multiple complaints of people who'd responded to a rental posting on Facebook Marketplace.
Each alleged victim handed over rent money under the belief they were securing tenancy.
LaSalle police said the fraud resulted in two groups of people trying to move into the property on the same day.
The case prompted LaSalle police to advise the public on basic steps to avoid the rental scam, such as: researching the listing, verifying the owner or agent by requesting identification and cross-checking, asking for references, and avoiding wire transfers.