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BEHIND THE SCENES: Local family shocked to find out their home was rented out by scammers

BayToday's Chris Dawson takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here

Today's spotlight is on BayToday.ca's Chris Dawson, whose story 'Local family shocked to find out their home was rented out by scammers' was published on Jan. 5.

Here is the original story if you need to catch up:‚Äč

A warning from local police that rental scams are cropping up in the North Bay area again.  

A Birchaven neighbourhood family found out the hard way during the holiday season when they had a surprise visitor arrive at their doorstep. 

"A cab pulled up to our house one night, my husband thought nothing of it," stated the homeowner's wife. 

"Minutes later there was a knock at the door. He answers the door to a gentleman with his suitcases who told us he rented out our house."

The homeowners say they never have tried to rent out their home in the nine years they have lived at that address. 

"The man looking stunned," she recalled.  

The bewildered man went back to the cab and 20 minutes later the cab driver knocked on the door. 

"He told us he just picked up this man from the bus station as he rented a house here, yes with our home with our address," she said. 

"The poor man was definitely scammed and we have no idea where this gentleman came from."

She says they have been Googling their address and searching for ads about their house for rent but found nothing. 

"We feel it’s important to share so others can have the conversation with their kids as we had with ours," she said.

"Keep your doors locked at all times."

See related: Rental scams in North Bay warn police

Constable Merv Shantz, corporate communications officer with the North Bay Police Service, says this scam has been going on for quite some time and will likely never stop, because it is so lucrative. 

"People will rent a place online and pay large deposits by e-transfer and show up at the 'rented' place,  and either it is a fake address, or the person that lives there has never rented their place," explains Shantz. 

Shantz believes many of the scams are initiated overseas but he says they could really come from anywhere. 

"It’s a 'renter beware' situation for sure, as there is not much that can be done about it from our end, especially for the person who lives at the house."

These fraudulent rental listings often become more prevalent as university and college students begin looking for places to live during the upcoming school year. Obviously, this one was done during the holiday season. 

The Competition Bureau of Canada provides ways to protect yourself against rental scams:

  • Go to the address, and make sure the listing is truthful and accurate. If you cannot go in person, use the Internet to see actual images of the rental.
  • Research the address to ensure it is not a duplicate post. You may even conduct a reverse image search to see if the photos were used elsewhere.
  • Schedule a showing and confirm that the landlord will be present.
  • Contact the builder to confirm ownership if you plan on renting in a new development.
  • Request a lease or contract. Review it thoroughly.
  • Be sure to know your rights as a tenant. Consult your provincial or territorial department or ministry of housing.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of this or any other scam, contact the North Bay Police Service at 705-497-5555.