A Behchoko man says a Facebook-fueled rental scam that cost him thousands has robbed him of the chance to finally find a residence in Yellowknife.
“It felt like I couldn't do anything about it … like basically everything we had was taken away from us,” the man, who asked not to be named, told Yellowknifer.
On March 21, the man’s common-law partner, who recently found work in the city, posted to a Facebook group titled “Yellowknife accommodations” in an effort to find a room to rent.
The page, a popular online hub that connects newcomers and would-be renters to available residences and rooms in the city, sees dozens of posts per day, and within hours of publishing the request, the man’s partner received a response.
A Facebook account identified under the name “Randolf William Allan Adams,”commented on the post, offering the man and his partner a room to rent in Yellowknife. The account featured a smiling man and woman as its profile picture.
“They asked for $900 for first and last month’s rent, so $1,800 plus $300 for cable and water and another $300 for Internet. So, $2,400 all in total,” the man said.
According to the alleged victim, who eagerly jumped at the opportunity, the person behind the account insisted the money be sent via email transfer before 4 p.m. The Facebook landlord claimed his bank closed at that time and that other people were interested in renting the room.
Not wanting to lose the room, the man recruited his parents to drive him, his partner and their six month old daughter to Yellowknife in order to transfer the money into the bank account of Randolf William Allan Adams.
“We packed all our stuff, got into town. We were excited to finally get our first place. We’ve been trying to get our own place for a year now,” he said.
But not long after sending the money, the couple knew something wasn’t right.
They were given an address and told that someone would meet them with a set of keys, so the pair could move in immediately.
But, according to the man, no one showed up and the location relayed to them turned out to be a U.S. address.
“So we were waiting and getting impatient so we kept asking for the money back but they quickly blocked us on Facebook and never replied to us by text,” he said.
The man said he and his partner immediately went to Yellowknife RCMP headquarters and reported the fraud.
The next day, the man claims RCMP passed along a number they believed was associated with the Facebook account that offered the room. The man said police told him to call the number and politely ask for the money to be returned.
He did, but his calls went straight to voicemail and after sending multiple texts, he received a response from someone saying they had nothing to do with the alleged fraud.
The man sought help from the bank he transferred the money from but was told their hands were tied without a warrant from police.
Two days after the alleged scam took place, the man said police told him they would continue to look into the report once the investigator attached to the case returned to work.
Until then, the man said all he can do is wait – and warn others of the alleged scammer.
After posting an account of the cautionary tale to the same Facebook page, he said he received messages and comments from other members who shared similar experiences with the same “Adams” Facebook profile.
The page's administrators removed the alleged fraudster from “Yellowknife accommodations” following the accusation but the account remains on the social network.
Adam's profile, while mostly bare, revealed the user belongs to more than a dozen “buy and sell” Facebook groups – spanning from Fort Good Hope and Dawson City, Yukon to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
After Yellowknifer sent multiple messages to the account and reaching out via an email listed on Adam's profile, the user blocked any further messages from being sent.
In an email to Yellowknifer, police confirmed they are investigation the fraud report.
“Yellowknife RCMP received a complaint regarding an alleged incident involving transaction and communication through social media,” RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon stated.
“To our knowledge, there are no additional complaints of this nature,” she added.
Despite law enforcement acknowledging the increasing sophistication of scams – a trend underscored through an RCMP-led fraud awareness campaign in the month of March – phony over-the-phone transactions remain a fraudster's preferred method of pilfering.
“In general, we do not receive many complaints regarding allegations of fraud or scams involving social media,” stated York-Condon.
The man is currently staying at a relative's home in Yellowknife so his partner can work in the city. He said he will continue to do everything he can to get his money back.