Tika Simone says she used Kijiji to find the apartment in a private duplex near Jarvis Street and Gerrard Street East in downtown Toronto and negotiated with a man who called himself Dr. Zaki. Simone said the man claimed to be a doctor at nearby St. Michael's Hospital and an owner of several rental properties. He even wore a stethoscope when they met.
Simone agreed to rent the studio apartment for $750 per month, with everything included, which she admits seemed like "a steal." In her eagerness to score the apartment, Simone agreed to pay Dr. Zaki the first- and last-month's rent up front, in cash, and didn't sign an application form.
The man gave Simone the keys, but when she went to move in on Sunday she immediately realized something was wrong.
"Everything was the exact same way I had seen it when I went for the initial walk-through but worse. Clothes strung all over the floor, furniture, shoes everywhere. It looked lived in," Simone wrote on a GoFundMe account she's set up online.
Neighbours who saw her leaving the apartment told her Zaki was, in fact, the current tenant and that they believe he's a drug-user and that Zaki isn't his real name. The man is also, according to neighbours, in the process of being evicted.
Jamshid Faiz, the building's property manager, said he's had problems with the man as well.
"He sold my furniture," Faiz alleged.
"There (was) furniture there and he sold off all that and he also hasn't paid me rent."
Simone has since contacted Toronto police about what happened. She made her report alongside several other people, including one family who also fell for the scam.
Mason Schroth, who lost $750 to Dr. Zaki, said he doesn't expect to see any of the money again, but hopes charges will be laid in the case.
"It wasn't so much that I was trying to get my money back, but the actual stopping of this, putting him maybe in jail, making him pay for what he has done," he said.
Toronto police have taken statements from those who have lost money to the man and said they will be passing the information along to a detective.
Also on HuffPost: