‘It’s gone’: Picton, Ont. family says they lost over $4,000 to an online rental scam

A Picton Ont., family, says an online scam drained their bank accounts and left them searching for a place to live.

Monique Cummings and Shane Morgan were planning on moving their young family to Kingston after her mother filed for bankruptcy and needed a place live.

Cummings took to the online classifieds service, Kijiji, and posted an ad looking for a home or townhouse that accepts pets.

An hour later, she says, she received a response from a man named Muhammad Ali, who said he was a local landlord and had a house on Jorene Drive off of Front Road.

“We exchange information, and then he asked that we paid first and last month’s rent as a deposit to hold the house because there was a lot of people interested in his home,” she said.

“I e-transferred the money to him in total $4,200.”

Global News attempted to contact Muhammad Ali several times, and the call was rejected each time.

A spokesperson for Kijiji told Global News via email that it assists law enforcement when it comes to fraud cases similar to Cummings and is working on eliminating his from its website.

“We commit significant resources toward the detection and prevention of activities that infringe our policies,” the spokesperson said.

“This includes industry-leading technology and a dedicated community support team, in addition to help from our community of Kijiji users who flag inappropriate postings.”

Kijiji added a few helpful tips to avoid scams, such as if the price seems unrealistic for the number of bedrooms and location, it’s likely too good to be true, and to always visit the property before making a deposit to ensure the validity of the posting.

“They will claim to be overseas but do not actually own it. Be sure to visit the property in which you’re interested to get an accurate idea of the space, conditions and the surroundings, and always bring a friend.”

Cummings says she did visit the property, but only after she made the $4,200 deposit.

Morgan tells Global News that the $4,200 was borrowed by a family friend and that paying it back will take some time because they are on disability. Now the family has turned to GoFundMe to raise funds.

“The money is gone, but we are just worried about where we will go at the end of the month. We have three kids and a 72-year old who needs a home,” said Morgan as he sat next to Cummings.

Prince Edward County OPP tell Global News that the investigation is underway.

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