Morden home used in rental scam ad

Madison Ushakas and Phil Wallis felt violated after they found out their real estate listing photos were being used in a rental scam. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Morden Times)

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A Morden family was shocked to learn that photos of their home were being used in a rental scam.
The photos, taken from the Crocus Realty website were advertised as a home for rent. Calling himself “Bishop Harry Long” the man claimed to be in New York and responded to inquiries by telling people they could look at the house and be ready to move in after they paid a total of $1,900 including first months rent and a security deposit.
But the home in question was never for rent, and owners Phil Wallis and Madison Ushakas found out about the scam on July 23.
“We had someone show up,” Phil said. “It was a couple of young (women). I was just outside doing yard work.”
“They asked me if I was taking care of the place for him while he was in New York.”
Confused, Phil told them they had their facts wrong. “She showed me the email she received from him with the pictures of the inside or our house from our ad on the Crocus web page,” he said. “I had mentioned a few times that it was a scam and that something wasn’t adding up.”
Phil said they were hesitant to leave, and had been told by the fake owner to ignore the “landlords”.
“Obviously they thought they were getting the house right away,” Madison said.
Phil and Madison went online after they left and quickly found the ad featuring their home. That prompted them to call the non-emergency number for the Morden Police. “They sent an officer pretty quick to talk to us,” she said.
They were told that there wasn’t much the police could do in solving a case like this, which is unique to the area.
As far as they know, nobody was taken in by this scam, but it was close for the young women who visited their home.
“The guy told her you need to make a decision tonight, so go drive by the place and if the landlords are there, ignore them,” Madison said. “They were filling out the application and that was the next thing they were going to do.”
Both Phil and Madison said they had noticed increased traffic as people would slow or come to a stop over the last five days the fake ad was posted, and they felt they needed to warn people.
“I feel like there’s just so many scams out there, and it’s so tough to get in front of them so if this really is the first time something like this happened out here then I think it’s important that we catch it right away and a lot of people are notified so this doesn’t keep happening,” Phil said. “It’s just playing on the vulnerable. It’s not okay.”
“I don’t want anybody to lose money on this,” Madison added.
Both said it’s no fault of Crocus Real Estate that this happened. “Crocus has been fantastic…” Phil said. “We’ve been very happy with Crocus through this whole process.”
Crocus Real Estate owner Randy Reimer has been in the business since the early ‘90s, and said this is the first time they’ve dealt with this scam.
“It has happened in other areas but this is the first one for us,” he said.
They are looking at ways to make their website more secure in the future, but said the best defense is for people to be aware and protect their money.
Morden Police Chief Brad Neduzak said as far as they know no one lost money on this scam. But he said finding out who is behind it is tough.
“These things are very difficult to trace as to where they’re coming from,” he said. “There’s no way of tracking those people.”
Neduzak confirmed that this is the first time they’ve dealt with this scam in Morden.