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Scam artist targets B.C. ski resorts

 | January 8, 2013

residential tenancy agreementFrench traveller, Jean Mazenod is one of the latest victims of a rental property scam at Sun Peaks after he paid “Caroline Gagné” $750 for an apartment that was never for rent.

Mazenod was in Vancouver en route to Sun Peaks when he saw an advertisement on classifieds website, Kijiji.ca, for a three bedroom apartment for rent in Sun Peaks’ Timberline Village.

“(Gagné and I) spoke on the phone, for approximately 20 minutes (and e-mailed back and forth) about how I would treat the place,” says Mazenod, adding that she even contacted his references.

Although Mazenod was unable to meet Gagné or inspect the apartment personally, he chose to sign a rental agreement and deposit the first month’s rent and damage deposit, into her Royal Bank of Canada account. After money was transferred, the phone number previously used to contact Gagné rang through to voicemail and e-mails went unanswered.

This story is only too familiar for two other Sun Peaks renters, who found an advertisement on Craigslist.com for a three bedroom apartment. The women e-mailed and spoke to Gagné on the phone and also signed a rental agreement, but before they transferred any money contact between themselves and Gagné ceased.

In Revelstoke, B.C., one would-be renter reported losing $1,600 to Gagné, and can account for three others in Revelstoke who have been involved with her as well. “This girl’s pretty good at the whole scamming thing,” says one of the Revelstoke victims who preferred to remain unnamed. “Even though she stole $1,600 from me I almost have to give her props . . . I’ve heard back from three people here in Revelstoke alone regarding the same scam: same bank accounts and phone numbers, same name.”

Gagné’s tactics were similar throughout her escapades.

She advertised on well-used classifieds websites, Kijiji, Craigslist and Revelstoke’s “The Stoke.” Her e-mails were polite and professional, suggesting that she was looking out for her property’s best interest. She made out that it was a competitive market and that renters should act quickly.

“I’ve received quite a few e-mails about the place, and will be showing it over the next couple of days,” Gagné says in one message. “I’ll be leaving to spend the winter in Mexico around December 1, and I want to make sure that I leave my home in good hands for the time that I’m gone.”

If the renter suggested a direct meeting with her, she smoothly steered them away from that option.

“I was anticipating coming back to Revelstoke for the 30th to make sure the house is clean and ready for your arrival, and to finish the rental agreement and complete the inspection (and maybe get a few runs in on the hill),” she says in another message. “I do appreciate your kind offer to pass through Banff to get the keys, but I don’t think that will be necessary. Let me know how that plan works with your travel schedule.”

Gagné indicated to some that she would be wintering in Banff, in Mexico to others. Photos of the apartments appear to have been downloaded from listings on realtors’ websites and posted online.

The RCMP has confirmed that it’s investigating the Gagné matter. Corporal Mike Mucha confirmed that while classified websites often contain warnings, this kind of rental scam is “not uncommon.” He added that often the assailant is difficult to find.

SPIN continues to follow this story and will provide updates as they arise.

If you’ve been in contact with Gagné or have any information about her, please contact us by leaving a comment below or via our contact form.

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