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Landlord speaks out about Calgary rental nightmare that allegedly cost victims thousands

A rental nightmare that a Calgary senior said defrauded him out of thousands of dollars continues to get a lot of attention, including from the actual landlord.

Gerry Bathla has been busy back home in India, so he was surprised to hear alleged fraudsters have been busy “renting” out his home in Calgary.

“That’s my house,” he told Global News. “You can’t just post an ad up.”

But he said that’s exactly what someone did on several popular rental websites.

Bathla said he was first alerted to the possible scam when his brother called him from Calgary. He had been receiving calls from a number of people asking about the home being up for rent and a discrepancy in the rental amount.

“He started getting calls every day. Like, five or six calls,” he said. “They (renters) saw an ad somewhere cheaper. Like the same house, but cheaper.”

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Bathla said the calls soon turned into unexpected visits.

“One day, someone showed up to my house and he said he paid the deposit for the house. He then started showing him all of the pictures of all the screenshots of all the chats and stuff,” he added.

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“The guy was ready to move in when he showed up!”

Daniel Reid preparing to vacate home. Tomasia DaSilva

Calgarian Daniel Reid, 68, recently visited the home.

He had to sell his home after falling into some financial trouble and was hopeful he’d found a suitable rental online. He told Global News he sent a total of $3,200 to the poster.

“I don’t know if it’s legit or not. I’m hoping it’s not a scam,” Reid said.

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Bathla said he didn’t know who Reid or any other possible victim was but added he did not receive any money.

“If money came into my account, I’m willing to go to jail. But nothing came into mine. I don’t even know who these guys are,” he said.

“Some guy said he wanted to put charges against me.”

Verifying a rental communications manager Giacomo Ladas told Global News with technology so advanced, it’s more important than ever to do your homework.

“They (fraudsters) pull images from other people’s listings or potentially now with (artificial intelligence) they can just make images,” he pointed out. “They can pose as anybody right?”

Ladas said has partnered with a company called Persona to help to verify information. Landlords will upload a photo of themselves with a piece of government ID, Ladas said. Once they’re verified, the website then gives them a checkmark on their listing.

The landlord ultimately can choose whether or not to do this, but Ladas said it can pay off in big ways as their listings get more visibility and that can lead to 25 to 28 per cent more leads.

However, he said renters still need to be careful.

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“Don’t send money. Don’t lease a place unless you’ve seen it and if you contact the landlord and they’re unable to meet you or show the property — maybe try finding somewhere else.”

Bathla’s home has now been rented. He said he, too, hopes renters check carefully, before handing over any money.

“You’ve got to be careful what you do,” he said. “You can’t just give money to people and then just show up at the door and expect some miracle that you’re going to get the place.”

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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