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Cape Breton University student warning about Kijiji rental scam

A Cape Breton University student is speaking out after a fraudster tried to rent him a house in Glace Bay, N.S., that was actually for sale.

In July, Akash Shaji posted an ad on Kijiji looking for a house for he and three friends to rent. He quickly received a response from someone claiming to have a house for rent. Shaji was told the landlord was out of town and could not show the house, but he could go and look in the windows.

After Shaji viewed the house, he was told to transfer money to secure the rental. However, he sensed that something was off.

"He was calling every day like 10 or 20 times," said Shaji. "I just blocked his number after that and I just texted him, like, 'Don't ever message me back.'"

Shaji decided to go back to the house. When he got there, he was told the house was for sale, not rent.

Jennifer Ludlow/CBC

Rob Parsons and his family own the home. The Canadian Forces member is looking to sell the house so his family can be with him at his posting in Kingston, Ont.

"What they're doing is going to the realtor's sites and stealing the information and photos and changing some of the wording around to say rental unit," said Parsons.

Shaji showed Parsons's wife a rental agreement that was sent by the "landlord" and their communications via text message. The messages show photos of the inside of the home and give amounts for the monthly rent ($1,450) and damage deposit ($600).

Luckily for Shaji, he never transferred any money to the fraudster.

Parsons said the situation makes him feel hopeless.

Feeling 'cheated'

"You feel like you've kind of been cheated," he said. "That's your home and your property and someone else is trying to scam people and rent it."

Parsons said he's installed an alarm system and has told his wife to keep the curtains closed so nobody can peek in the house. Even with those measures, he said, his wife doesn't feel secure.

"She doesn't want to be there. She doesn't want to be in the home, [she's] scared that people are just going to show up," said Parsons.

Housing shortage

An influx of international students to Cape Breton University has led to a housing shortage in the area. Scams like the one described are commonplace in markets where the vacancy rate is low.

Shaji moved from India last year to attend Cape Breton University. He's concerned international students could fall for a similar scam.

"They're moving from ... another country," he said. "It's really far, they don't know what's happening here and it's really bad."

Shaji advises anyone looking for a place to rent to see the place in person or send a friend if they can't make it before they send any money.

Optimism not lost

Despite the unfortunate incident, Shaji said his opinion of Cape Breton hasn't changed.

"Cape Breton has really great people, they are really caring and loving," said Shaji.

Neither Parsons nor Shaji filed complaints with police about the incident.

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