BRITISH COLUMBIA

Vacation Rental Scam Hits Vancouver

06/13/2013 09:40 EDT | Updated 08/13/2013 05:12 EDT
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A Vancouver woman says internet fraudsters are using photos and information about her condo to scam vacationers, and the police say there isn't much they can do.

Heidi Rahn was shocked to see her Kelowna vacation condo ad listed almost word-for-word on Craigslist, for much less than the rate she charges, and with someone else's contact information.

"I felt really violated. I felt like someone had actually broken into my home. I felt that my identity was being stolen," she told CBC News.

Rahn contacted the poster by email, posing as a potential customer. That person emailed her back with more information on the listing, and even attached Rahn's own photos from the original listing — including one that shows her daughter.

The scammer told the potential dupe she could get an even cheaper deal on the rental if she wired money that day.

"I felt scared that this could happen, and how easily it could happen," Rahn said.

Rahn says she has repeatedly asked Craigslist to take the ad down, to no avail. Kelowna RCMP says there is nothing the police can do if a transaction hasn't taken place.

Rahn now says she is most concerned about promises that have been made to would-be vacationers.

"Are there going to be families showing up thinking that they've got the August long weekend booked?"

Consumer Protection BC says people must be cautious when using sites that aren't regulated.

AlluraDirect.com, a Vancouver-based rental company, says they charge a fee for their listings but guarantee the rental will be legitimate and available.

"We provide a transparent marketplace for travellers to find what they're looking for," said spokeswoman Sue Chappel. "To interact with owners... and actually do the booking in a way that's safe and that protects them."

The Canadian Fraud Protection Branch says these types of online rental scams have become very prevalent and hundreds of Canadians are being caught up in them.

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