An Australian moving to Canada for a working holiday lost $5,000 to an accommodation scam, leaving him without a home upon arrival.
An Adelaide physiotherapist travelling to Whistler, home to one of the biggest ski resorts in North America, had joined a local Facebook group to find a rental.
It was there they came into contact with an account under the name John Schroeder.
Schroeder promised a ‘clean’ bedroom and ensuite for a reasonable price, a lie the Adelaide man later realised was ‘too good to be true’.
An Adelaide man lost $5,000 to an accommodation scam while looking for a room in Whistler, Canada (above)
The Australian said every interaction with the account seemed very normal, with legal documents appearing legitimate, so he had no problem sending through $5,000 to secure his room.
During their chats, Schroeder added that his son and friend would be staying in the house at the same time but reassured the Aussie they were ‘very tidy and mindful’.
Schroeder also sent through several photos of the home and bedroom as a makeshift inspection.
However, just days before leaving for his trip, the man lost all contact with Schroeder.
‘I knew I was meant to catch up with the agent a few days prior to leaving Australia but didn’t have the contact details, so I messaged John and didn’t hear back, then tried to call and the dial-up tone was different,’ the Aussie told Yahoo News.
Once the Aussie touched down in Canada, he went to see his accommodation for himself, only to find out the residents had never advertised it.
‘[I thought] “Oh, I’m not in a good place here, this is going to be pretty grim”, and I already knew something was off so I booked an Airbnb,’ he said.
Fortunately, authorities have been able to track his $5,000 and believe it can be recovered.
‘This is the first time I’ve organised accommodation through a Facebook group and I got caught out for it,’ the Adelaide man said.
The scammer contacted the Aussie over Facebook and requested the money to secure the room
He encouraged travellers looking for accommodation to request landlords send ‘proof’ they own the property, even if it’s only a utility bill.
An Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) spokeswoman warned the unfortunate tale is a timely reminder for Aussies heading overseas.
To avoid rental scams, the ACCC recommended only using official booking websites with secure payment options and checking reviews.
Copy-pasting ads to see if they’ve been listed elsewhere with different contact information and ensuring any agent is licensed were among the other suggestions.
Australians lost a record total of $3.1billion to scams last year, up by more than 80 per cent compared to the year before.
Those who do lose money to a scam are urged to report it to their bank and Scamwatch.