For those of us without a summer home, renting out another family’s for a week is the best way to experience that R&R-filled cottage life.
But buyer beware: vacation rental scams run amok online, and if you’re not careful, you might be out thousands of dollars and your summer getaway.
This summer, at least two families have been duped by the same fraudster advertising a large rental cottage in Bracebridge on the classified ad site Kijiji.
Two weeks ago, Ana Rosales and her family arrived at 1080 Viewpoint Trail, anticipating a fun week with her daughters, nieces and parents from Hamilton.
But when she arrived at the home, she discovered another family—the Stelzers, the real owners of the house since 1988—eating dinner by the dock.
Rosales told the Toronto Star, “It was a Goldilocks moment. We thought: Who’s making dinner if they’re having people rent the place?”
Rosales had found the ad on Kijiji, which was posted by a man named Steven Oriley who claimed to own the Stelzer’s home, after searching for “last minute cancellation specials.” Rosales expressed interest in renting the home, and Oriley quickly sent over a contract to seal the deal. Before booking the reservation, Rosales carefully read through it looking for clues that it could be fake. It seemed legitimate, so Rosales signed the contract and even wired over the total amount of $1,580 total a 10 percent discount.
“I felt really stupid for being so trustworthy,” Rosales says.
Now without vacation plans, Rosales spent the following day going door to door in Wasaga Beach looking for an alternative.
This isn’t the first time Oriley has scammed a family.
Earlier this summer, Nelson Pang from Toronto rented 1080 Viewpoint Trail for a vacation with his visiting family, only discover upon arrival that he had been scammed. He had already wired over an $850 deposit to hold the space.
Both Pang and Rosales have not been able to recover any of the money, and neither has been able to reach Oriley.
Toronto police Const. Jennifer Sidhu told the Toronto Star that, “these things do occur on a daily basis over the Internet. The Internet has created a new target market for fraud and a mechanism for people to find victims.”
Whenever renting a cottage online, use a reputable rental websites such as AirBnB, avoid wiring money, and seek out reviews and if possible.