P.E.I. homeowner dodges Kijiji scammer

An Island homeowner is relieved after a $2,000 scam involving her Kijiji rental ad was thwarted.

Anna Baldacchino learned her ad had been cloned by a scammer when she got a call in her home country, Malta, from Charlottetown police.

Kijiji told Baldacchino a potential renter who was asked to wire money got suspicious and called them and the police.

"They said that what might have happened was that the scammer took the details in my ad, looked up the persons on the 'wanted' part of Kijiji, where this particular lady was looking for a house in Charlottetown, and he advised her to send the money over," Baldacchino said.

Took down bogus ad

"He didn't even offer her to visit the house or view it. He just asked for the money to go directly into the Western Union, and then he would send her the keys. As if we would ever do that."

In a statement, Kijiji told CBC, "We've been working with Anna to protect the integrity of her ad as well as our other users. We're grateful to the third party who was helpful in alerting us, so that we could take down the bogus ad right away."

Charlottetown police and Kijiji haven't been able to trace the scammer.

Kijiji said, "Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to trace the identities of offshore scammers, and that appears to be who is responsible in this case."

Tips from Kijiji

A spokesperson for Kijiji suggested these tips to help protect people from falling prey to a real estate scam.

- Will you actually be able to see the inside of the place before you give a deposit? Many foreign scammers will offer pictures but will not be able to show you inside. They will claim to be overseas but do not actually own it. Be sure to visit the property in which you're interested, to get an accurate idea of the space, conditions and the surroundings, and always bring a friend.

- Be wary of photos that look either professional, are very low resolution or of little relevance.

- Watch out for overly flowery descriptions and extensive lists of features as these are often signs of a realtor marketing a property, and not that of a landlord trying to rent out their house/apartment. Another warning sign is descriptions of repairs like the roof or furnace, as that is not relevant to renters, only buyers. These are often copied from other real estate sites by scammers to appear as descriptive as possible.

- Be careful of ads that ask for responses that include age, occupation, income, gender and more personal information such as bank or social insurance card number; these can often be attempts by scammers to store information.

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