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New B.C. deputy fire chief stumbles on apartment scam

After Google search of local apartment for rent, finds same photos for place in Puerto Rico
This photograph that was posted with a rental ad for an apartment in Pitt Meadows was also used in an ad for a rental in Puerto Rico. (Special to The News)

The new deputy fire chief in Pitt Meadows has a warning out for residents – but it has nothing to do with fire safety.

Since Tracy Warren started his new job two months ago, Warren has been searching for an apartment to rent in the city.

However, instead of finding an apartment to live in, he uncovered a scam and wants others to be aware that scammers are out there.

A few days ago he saw an ad on Craigslist for an apartment for rent at the Origin apartment complex in Pitt Meadows.

He contacted the person through the online platform with his email and cell phone number to say that he was interested in renting the apartment.

Warren said he was already familiar with the building and thought it strange that there was a 900 square foot, one bedroom apartment available in it.

Then the ad for the apartment was removed from Craigslist.

The next morning, Warren received both a text message and an email saying we heard you are interested in renting a place in Pitt Meadows.

The person who sent the message, a “Lane Trust,” said he wanted to sell the apartment in Pitt Meadows, but his wife suggested they rent it out, “to a responsible person”.

“Lane” then explained that rent would be $1,397 per month and would include utilities like hydro, cable, internet access, central air conditioning, laundry, heating, parking, and dry cleaning. The place was fully furnished, he said, and pets were fine.

“I want you to know that it was due to my transfer that makes us to leave the apt and also want to give it out for rent and look for a responsible person that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean all time,” read the message.

Then there was a tenant rent application to fill out.

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Warren filled it in with his name, address, marital status, number of children, and other general information.

Then Warren got an email a couple of hours later from “Lane” saying he was currently out of town with his family as they work as volunteers with a missionary. He said they had the keys to the apartment with them, but that they would send a courier package with the keys to Warren, if he took the apartment.

“Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the key to you, please we are giving you all this base on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words, you know that, we do not see yet and only putting everything into Gods hand, so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this,” read the letter from “Lane”.

Warren, again, thought that’s sort of weird. So, he asked for the unit number in the apartment building.

“They never emailed me back the apartment number,” Warren explained, saying he was familiar with the building because another fire chief he knew had lived there.

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Warren decided to do a Google search of the photographs that were posted with the listing and discovered that three out of the four pictures were also being used in another ad for an apartment for rent in Puerto Rico.

Warren went to the Ridge Meadows RCMP who told him that since he was still a resident of Delta that he would have to go to the Delta RCMP. And when Warren phoned the Delta office, he was told that since he didn’t lose any money that they couldn’t start a file.

Warren did fill out a form and send the information along with screen shots of all of his email correspondence to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. However, the agency notes that it does not conduction criminal investigations, but is a central repository for fraud data and provides support to law enforcement agencies by analyzing fraud data.

The agency does estimate that less than five per cent of fraud victims report their experiences to law enforcement agencies in Canada.

If someone suspects they have been the target of a fraud, the centre is urging people to gather all the information they have about the incident including: the name of the person; what the person was trying to get you to do; the telephone number or email address they used; take screen shots or print out key web pages; and report the incident to police. Also, keep all notes and documents like receipts, cancelled cheques, emails and texts, chatroom or newsgroup texts; shipping envelopes; facsimiles; pamphlets or brochures; phone bills; printed or electronic copies of web pages.

And make sure the incident is also reported to the financial institution, if money is transferred, and place flags on all financial accounts.

Still on the hunt for a place, Warren wants his experience out there so others will be cautious while trying to find housing in a market where people can be easily victimized.

“Hopefully no one else gets scammed,” he said.

To report a fraud or more information on what to do if you are the victim of a fraud go to

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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