This is a realtor and his clients' nightmare.
As is typical for most realtors representing properties for sale in Toronto, over the past few weeks we've been hosting public weekend Open Houses at one of my listings. No biggie, or at least we thought, right? Now we are near certain we were played as part of a Scam!
It began a week ago Saturday when one prospective buyer, who had returned several times to the Open Houses, instructed my associate to draft an offer to purchase. He revealed he was going to buy the property with the intention of renting the dwelling as an investment. Great news! My associate excitedly drafted the requisite paperwork to begin negotiations with my clients and I.
Our first clue something may be amiss was the next day, when people showed up at the Open House saying they saw the ad on Craigslist and Kijiji and were considering it as a rental for a very reasonable $1600 per month. What? On Monday we found the ad on Craigslist.
By Wednesday, when the property negotiations between both parties were still in process, I received a call from a police officer who specializes in fraud. He said his son was considering renting the subject property and he wanted to confirm it was actually Sold before his son handed over the first and last month's rent. I confirmed we were in the midst of negotiations but it was not yet a firm sale. The police officer warned me this may be a scam artist at work. I originally doubted this as we had taken this fellow's identity information as required and mandated by FINTRAC - the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada - which receives, analyzes, assesses and discloses financial intelligence on suspected money laundering, terrorist financing, and threat to the security of Canada. Surely a scam artist knew this was standard procedure and wouldn't let us do that, would he?
Midweek I received another call from a woman who said she wanted to confirm this fellow was buying the property before renting it. She said the prospective landlord had been forthcoming about being in negotiations and that the Agreement of Purchase and Sale should be firm by Friday. I let her know this fellow was accurately representing the circumstance and that I would call her if anything went awry. Perhaps we were being overly-suspicious as her story checked out, right?
The buyer ended up accepting my sellers' sign-back on Wednesday with its conditions due on Friday, but he didn't follow through procuring the deposit within twenty-four hours as required with all real estate trades in the Province of Ontario. What was suspicion on Thursday became alarm on Friday when the Buyer, who had called to say he had some financial glitches, didn't arrive at a scheduled appointment to sign the necessary Mutual Release to collapse the purchase (which he subsequently did without an appointment over the weekend). I contacted the police detective, let the prospective tenant know an issue had arose, and we went to 'flag' the Craigslist ad but discovered it had been deleted. Hmmmm.
The woman who called midweek returned my call promptly. She said she met the 'landlord' a second time where he pressured her to give him the first and last month's deposit. She refused. We're now awaiting for the police to return my calls so we can pass on all the necessary information. We suspect this is a repeat offender, and our fingers are crossed no one got duped by him! Yikes!
As Realtors, we make it our business to watch out for unusual circumstances. In the interest of our clients, and the public, real estate fraud must be prevented!