Quebec cottage owner says fraudster used her property in online scam
MONTREAL -- If you're looking to rent a cottage for a weekend getaway, be careful. Fraudulent activity has increased during the pandemic, and one cottage owner found that out when she got a bizarre knock at her door.
It all began when Gren Cowper thought he found a great deal to rent this cottage in Wentworth North. But when he was emailing with the person who posted the ad on LesPAC.com, he sensed something was off.
“It sounded like a Google translation of English,” he said. “His greetings and salutations were not typical of a Quebecer.”
When Cowper researched the listing, he discovered that the property actually belonged to someone else, Tracy Goodson, who runs a website called CozyCottages.net, where the real ad was posted.
“Someone has stolen my property’s identity,” Goodson told CTV News.
The poster was trying to get interested renters to send a deposit before they could see the place, something security experts warn against unless you're convinced the person on the other end is legitimate.
Goodson says she repeatedly asked LesPAC to take down the ad, but it kept popping up. Once, someone even knocked at her door looking for the person who posted it.
He must have driven all the way from Montreal, she said.
“So, he spent an hour and a half, two hours in traffic on a Sunday. And I said, ‘oh no, did you see the ad on LesPAC?’ He said ‘yes.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you it’s a scam.’”
Goodson is angry LesPAC kept letting the fraudulent ad appear, but LesPAC says the poster kept using a different email and IP address to post it.
“Every time, our team was quite fast to take action, identify the fraudulent ad, then block it and remove it,” LesPAC Operations Vice President Luc Morin told CTV News. “But the moderation that was in place was not sufficient.”
Morin says they have learned from what happened to Goodson and have improved security as a result. But, he says, fraudsters still find a way to get through.
He says anyone using online platforms should be careful. Sometimes, he said, “you will see a note ‘please contact me at the following email address’ — this is a [red] flag. Don’t do that.”
“If it doesn’t work with the phone, just stop and go with another property.”