August 30, 2016 - 12:30 PM
VERNON - A Vernon couple had some unexpected visitors knocking on their door over the weekend.
Pierre Alexandre says it was around 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27 when he heard the doorbell ring. On the doorstep of his East Hill area home was a man and a woman, roughly in their mid-20s, carrying luggage.
“They said ‘we’re here to stay the night,’” Alexandre says. “They were kind of puzzled as to why I was there.”
The couple said they booked the home through Airbnb, a vacation rental website, and even showed Alexandre a booking confirmation on their cell phone.
“She showed me the confirmation, and it had pictures of our house which was really weird and the address was right,” Alexandre says.
He told the couple the home was definitely not an Airbnb rental and says they seemed annoyed, but left.
Alexandre and his wife Adrienne bought the home about a month ago and say this is the first time something like this has happened.
They checked Airbnb to see if the house was listed but found nothing. Adrienne also Googled the address to see if any vacation rental ads came up and again, nothing.
Now, they’re not sure if the couple on their doorstep was the victim of a phoney Airbnb listing, or if they were being scammed.
“It almost gave us the feeling they were maybe casing the house,” Adrienne says.
Alexandre says the couple seemed genuinely upset over the situation, which leads him to believe they were in fact the victims of a scam and weren’t casing out the house.
The Alexandres say the photos on the couple’s booking appeared to be the same ones from a Kijiji listing when their home was for sale.
“I’m guessing that’s where they got the pictures from,” Adrienne says.
Stories about vacation rental scams and fake Airbnb sites are plentiful online, although most victims tend to realize their mistake before they actually get to the rental — often when they try to confirm the booking and realize the listing has completely disappeared.
Whatever the case, the fishy scenario has left the Alexandres worried they might have a bigger problem on their hands.
“Now we’re worried this is going to happen again,” Adrienne says.
RCMP Cpl. Joe Leeson says the detachment hasn’t received any reports of similar incidents in the Vernon/North Okanagan area lately, however he’s encountered scams like this in other cities, such as Whistler.
“This is nothing new, that’s for sure,” he says.
In his experience, vacation rental scams tend to appear in spurts and the original ad is usually long gone by the time victims realize their mistake.
“They scammed, they got their money, and they delete their site or their ad immediately,” Leeson says of the scammers.
He says you should always try to confirm the booking with the property owner prior to sending any money, and if an ad sounds too good to be true, it probably is. He also suggests looking up the rental unit to see if it’s listed anywhere else. If it’s only on one site, it could be a fake ad.
He says it’s also important for homeowners to protect themselves. While it’s unknown if the couple who showed up in Vernon were the victims or the scammers, Leeson says it’s always a good idea to listen to your gut and take precautions.
“It doesn’t hurt to phone the police right then and there,” he says. “If these are truly unwitting victims, they’ll be happy to stay there and wait for police.”
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016