Former VPD officer speaks out after discovering his property was being used in rental scam
When a former detective with the Vancouver Police Department discovered photos of his home were being used in a rental scam, he decided to start his own investigation.
Earlier this month, Paul McNamara was told by a friend that his New Westminster property—which he recently listed for sale—was also listed on Rentals.ca.
“It doesn’t feel good to be used as a pawn in a scam,” McNamara told CTV News Thursday. “It felt personal for sure.”
The listing included 30 photos of McNamara’s family home that were included in online real estate listings.
“It’s a scammer's dream come true,” McNamara said of the photos, which he later learned aren’t allowed to be watermarked due to regulations within the real estate sector.
After reporting the scam to the New Westminster Police Department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, McNamara says it was clear that no one was going to do anything about it.
“They’re just information-gathering receptacles at the end of the day,” McNamara said. “After contacting everyone, I just thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to do this myself.”
‘SEAMUS’ AND THE FRAUDSTER PASTOR
He decided to reply to the ad to rent his own home, using a fake email address and the pseudonym Seamus Brogan.
The person who responded identified himself as Reverend Benjamin William, and told “Seamus” that the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house was available to rent for $2,000 a month and “ready for move-in ASAP,” pending a $1,500 security deposit.
An email between Paul McNamara, a former Vancouver police officer, and the person he discovered was using images of his home for an online rental ad. (Paul McNamara)
William included the house’s address in the email, as well as 30 pictures of the property, which he explained could only be viewed from the outside, since the pastor was travelling on a mission—plus his only trustee was allegedly in California after losing her parents to COVID-19.
The scammer requested for the deposit to be e-transferred, which McNamara says is typically how these particular criminals ask for money because “Once you hit the send button, it’s gone and it’s not traceable.”
To waste the scammer’s time and glean more information, McNamara doctored email confirmations and bank receipts to make it look like he’d e-transferred the deposit.
Eventually, he linked the scammer’s phone to a number in Utah, and his bank account to a Toronto Dominion branch in Sherbrooke, Que.
“What makes it difficult for police to catch scammers is when it spans multiple jurisdictions,” McNamara said, adding it’s extra challenging when a border is involved. “What it boils down to, to be honest is—for the potential victim—you’re on your own.”
HOW TO SPOT A RENTAL SCAM
Five years after retiring from the VPD, McNamara is making a public appeal in hopes that people will do their homework before sending rental deposits or payments.
“Before you send your money—question what you’re looking at. If the landlord on the other side of this is a legitimate landlord, they should actually welcome someone questioning what they’re looking at in the process,” McNamara said, listing some examples of questions.
“Why are you renting? Where are you going? What are you doing? How long have you lived here? Do you own the property?”
He also recommends doing online searches of any address included in rental listings—including to see if the property is posted for sale on real estate websites.
Just as he did, McNamara says people should reverse search a potential landlord’s phone number and bank information to make sure the person’s story links up, geographically speaking.
Having worked as a VPD detective for decades, McNamara says he knows that people who fall victim to scammers are usually desperate for something—be it money or a place to live in a tight rental market.
“There’s a lot of psychology at play here between the scammer and the victim,” he said.
“The person attempting to rent my house most likely posted it online on Friday, knowing that even if it’s discovered on the weekend, it wouldn’t be taken down until Monday morning,” McNamara said, adding that in this rental market, that could be enough time for the scammer to trick 10 to 15 people.
According to the Better Business Bureau’s 2022 Scam Tracker risk report, rental scams place sixth on a list of 10 that Canadians are most susceptible to.
Last summer, the Vancouver-based rental listing site liv.rent posted data showing its platform had seen a 47-per -cent increase in activity compared to the previous year.
“Meanwhile, reports of suspicious listings have nearly tripled from the previous year,” the release reads.
CTV News has reached out to New Westminster police, as well as Rentals.ca, for more details about their investigation process into scams.
The person behind the fraudulent rental listing has not responded to an interview request.
McNamara’s house is no longer listed on Rentals.ca, though he worries it could happen again since he’s still trying to sell his property, and will likely need to repost photos on real estate websites.
The New Westminster Police Department says that, in this case, McNamara did the right thing by reporting the scam to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and contacting Rentals.ca.
“Website administrators are encouraged to act swiftly when these reports are made as to reduce the likelihood someone will fall victim to the scam,” the NWPD wrote in an email to CTV News Thursday.
According to police, investigations into scams are launched when “a resident shares they’ve been a victim … and have lost money or have been extorted.”
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Hundreds of American firefighters arrive in Canada to help battle wildfires
Hundreds of American firefighters have recently arrived in Canada to help battle wildfires and more are on the way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Can face masks help protect you from wildfire smoke? Health expert explains
An official recommendation to wear a mask to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is being echoed by health experts as plumes of smoke make their way across parts of Canada, causing poor air quality.
Here's how major cities in Canada and the U.S. look blanketed by wildfire smoke
Photos show smoke-filled skies in cities across Canada and the U.S. as air quality warnings were issued in wake of the hundreds of wildfires from Quebec and Ontario.
'Very, very hard to breathe': Experts call wildfires a 'major public health concern' for Canada
As forest fires rage across the country, experts are sounding the alarm over the physical and psychological impacts of the wildfires and saying that they pose a serious public health issue, which individuals and governments need to acknowledge and act upon.
WATCH | Rate hike 'may be the last straw' for some homeowners: mortgage broker
With the latest hike bringing Canada's key interest rates to levels not seen since 2001, one mortgage broker is warning that it may be 'the last straw' for some homeowners with variable mortgages.
Canadians more likely to support foreign interference inquiry than hearings: Nanos
Canadians are twice as likely to support a formal inquiry into foreign interference, as opposed to public hearings, according to new polling from Nanos Research for CTV News.
opinion | Eight takeaways from Prince Harry's seven hours on the witness stand
It's been a busy, tumultuous few days for Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex as he took his place on the witness stand in his trial against the Mirror Group Newspapers. Here are royal commentator Afua Hagan's top takeaways from his two-day grilling.
Calgary mass killer Matthew de Grood seeks 'absolute discharge'
The man who was found not criminally responsible in the stabbing deaths of five people at a house party in Brentwood more than nine years ago is seeking more freedoms.
Trudeau shows no interest in compromising with Meta, Google over online news bill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is showing no interest in compromising with Meta and Google over a Liberal bill that would make them pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue.
Extended highway closure expected due to wildfire near Port Alberni
There's no end in sight for the closure of Highway 4 on Vancouver Island – the only highway leading to the communities of Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet – due to a wildfire burning in the area.
Busload of B.C. students stranded by wildfire spend the night inside Vancouver Island high school
A busload of high school students were finally heading home to Nanaimo on Wednesday after they were stranded by a raging wildfire that forced them to spend the night inside a Port Alberni high school.
Speed and alcohol likely factors in fatal Nanaimo crash
A 33-year-old man from Nanaimo is dead after a single-vehicle crash south of the city Tuesday.
Council reconsiders decision to reject recommendations on affordability crisis
Calgary city council has reconsidered its decision to vote against recommendations made by an expert panel to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.
Hot, dry weather comes with cautions and a few benefits
Calgary was under a heat warning Wednesday with forecast high of 29C.
Documentary series examines story of missing Marshal Iwaasa
Marshal Iwaasa disappeared three and a half years ago and the mystery of what happened to him is now part of a streaming documentary series.
Albertans asked to conserve electricity Wednesday evening due to hot temperatures
Hot temperatures across Alberta prompted a grid alert Wednesday afternoon.
'A long time coming': Edmonton Catholics commit $3.2M to Indigenous reconciliation fund
The Archdiocese of Edmonton will spend $3.2 million on reconciliation initiatives with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the Alberta capital region.
'Major travel delays': Anthony Henday Drive bridge will be closed this weekend
Drivers are being asked to find another way or prepare for delays on the Henday this weekend, because crews need to close a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.
consumer, | Toronto woman 'horrified' after losing $95,000 to romance scam
Romance scams have always been around, but they got worse during the pandemic, and fraudsters continue to use social media and dating sites to find victims.
Number of Ontario forest fires doubled compared to same time last year
Ontario has already experienced double the number of forest fires this year compared to the same six months in 2022.
Alleged Toronto anti-cyclist road rage incident caught on camera
Toronto police are investigating an incident of alleged road rage against a cyclist that was caught on camera.
Ontario man charged with first-degree murder in killing of Claudia Iacono outside Montreal salon
An Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of Mafia associate Moreno Gallo, after she was gunned down at the wheel of her car in Montreal last month.
Woman, 55, dies after vehicle strikes 2 pedestrians in Cote-des-Neiges; second pedestrian seriously injured
A pedestrian has died after she and a fellow pedestrian were both hit by a vehicle Wednesday afternoon in Montreal's Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood.
More evacuations in Quebec as record-breaking fires continue to burn
Quebec's wildfire season, which has forced thousands from their homes and left other communities on high alert, is the worst on record, officials said Wednesday,
Trustee suspended over posts targeting LGBTQ2S+ community, division says
A Manitoba school trustee has been suspended over social media posts the division says targeted the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Continued closure of Fort Gibraltar causing changes for soon to be married couples
The closure of Fort Gibraltar following the collapse of an elevated walkway that sent 16 students and one teacher to hospital has left some couples scrambling to find a place to get married.
Crash with stolen vehicle sends two Winnipeg officers to hospital
A section of Main Street is closed on Wednesday morning following a car crash in the area.
Saskatoon property taxes could see 13 per cent hike as city confronts $75M revenue gap
Significant property tax hikes may be needed to cover a funding shortfall, according to City of Saskatoon administration.
Saskatoon builder looking to flip abandoned homes to first time buyers
A Saskatoon man wants to play matchmaker for the unloved homes in the city.
Latest season of survivalist series 'Alone' filmed in Sask., set to premiere June 8
The rugged wilderness of northern Saskatchewan was host to survivalists from all walks of life, vying to win the top prize of the popular series 'Alone.'
Future uncertain for residents of bulldozed Regina homeless camp
The dwellings of around a dozen Regina residents experiencing homelessness were bulldozed after calls from the property owner.
Less than 50% of Indigenous students graduate from provincial schools, report says
Indigenous graduation rates are sliding in the province, according to Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor.
Regina city council asks for debt limit increase
Regina city council has asked its administration to pursue permission from the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) to increase its debt limit to $780 million.
'This is not helping': Frustrated evacuees say official communication lacking in wildfire recovery
Frustration is building among some people from neighbourhoods hardest-hit by the fires near Halifax. CTV's Heidi Petracek reports.
A 'whole list of hazards' are keeping residents near N.S. fire zones under evacuation: officials
It is still not safe for some evacuated residents whose houses were spared from wildfire damage to return home, officials from Halifax Regional Municipality and the District of Shelburne said.
Halifax support workers strike impacting students and families
The father of disabled teen from Fall River, N.S. is calling on all sides to get back to the bargaining table and put an end to the Halifax area CUPE educational support worker strike.
VIDEO | 'Hate and discrimination have no place in any TVDSB schools': Investigation underway after pride flag torn down
Students at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ont. are being investigated after a video was posted online showing students tearing down a LGBTQ2S+ pride flag.
Special air quality statement remains in effect, rain possible over the weekend
As wildfire smoke blankets Ontario and eastern U.S., causing hazardous air quality and hazy skies, smoke in the Forest City is expected to remain until at least Thursday night.
City pitches new parking garage and extended free parking to aid downtown London, Ont.’s recovery
Since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Honk Mobile Parking App has offered two hours of free municipal parking in London’s core area business districts.
Wildfire west of Sudbury prompts evacuation order, total active fires in northern Ont. grows to 54
A northern Ontario forest fire that started west of Sudbury on Sunday morning has grown to more than 1,000 hectares and has prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for the immediate area as the number of active fires in the region grows.
Spreading wildfires prompt northeastern communities to evacuate
Communities affected by wildfires in the region are evacuating for safety reasons. The province says there is significant danger as several out-of-control wildfires affect air quality and physical safety.
‘Incompetent’ northern Ont. doctor loses his license to practise medicine
A northern Ontario doctor has been stripped of his medical licence for conduct described as “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”
Poor air quality in Waterloo region and Guelph will continue into the weekend: Environment Canada
There's high levels of air pollution in Waterloo region and Wellington County as smoke plumes from wildfires burning in Quebec and northeastern Ontario continue to blow into the region, Environment Canada says.
Six Region of Waterloo councillors announce support for amalgamation
One unified city – that’s what six Region of Waterloo councillors say they want when it comes to the future of the region’s municipal governance.
Habitat for Humanity nears completion of new affordable housing units
The work never stops at Habitat for Humanity when it comes to building affordable homes for families in Waterloo region.