An Okotoks man is urging scepticism and caution after several people were sent to his address through a fraudulent Kijiji listing for an RV trailer.
The confusion began when the man received several visits at his home on March 9 from people that had put a deposit on a trailer through the listing.
“And around six o'clock, there was somebody at the door and we went to answer,” said Okotoks resident Marty Gaffney. “The gentleman at the door was there to pick up a trailer."
Gaffney had no such trailer for sale and after verifying the address given to the man through a series of texts, it became apparent that he had been scammed into giving a deposit for a non-existent trailer.
“Then, five minutes later, an older gentleman showed up, and he was asking the same questions,” Gaffney added. “We started looking at each other wondering what really is happening.
"There were, by the end of the night, we had 11 people total."
It became apparent the goal of the scam was to dupe would-be trailer buyers into putting a deposit down to hold the trailer.
The various people had left deposits ranging from $200 to $500, and came from as far as Edmonton and Lethbridge.
“You can only imagine a person drove three hours to get here for me to tell them that they were the victim of fraud,” he said.
By the time the victims had understood their mistake, the advertisement had already been taken off Kijiji and the man was no longer answering his phone.
Of those that gave the scammer a deposit, one actually got his money back as the email had already been disconnected by the time he sent it.
What was most shocking, Gaffney said, was how convincing the seller’s communication had been, based on what his unannounced visitors showed him.
“The thing that really threw people off is the fact that when they were texting back and forth with this gentleman, he was very responsive. He was very receptive to all their questions,” he said.
“A lot of people that showed up, they were like, ‘I can't believe this guy was a fraud. He was so convincing.’”
Gaffney never saw the price of the phantom trailer, but a few of the victims did say it had donned on them the deal was too good to be true.
He estimates the fraudster was taking advantage of timing, with campsites opening up, and recreational goods being at a premium since the pandemic started.
“He probably created that sense of urgency because of the time of year and how in demand they are and with COVID,” he said.
While he was out nothing but time, he worries the scammer will move on to do the same elsewhere.
“I think that based on their success on this, they might just choose another mailing address at random somewhere else,” he said.