By Laura Keil

Two men who believed they’d found a house to rent in Valemount had a big surprise when they showed up to the house.

Riette Kenkel said when she answered the door two men stood there and asked if she was Norma. She said no, that she owned the house and it was for sale, not for rent.

“They kept asking me ‘Are you joking?’”

The one man showed her the correspondence with the woman who claimed to own the house, a person to whom they’d recently sent a sizable deposit.

“I just said, ‘I’m sorry. Sounds like maybe it’s a different house.’ But no, he showed me his phone and the picture of my house saying this is the house. And I’m like, ‘I’m sorry. No, I don’t know what to tell you.’ It felt a little unnerving at the time, because they were like two big guys. But they held it together really good, I was the messenger of some pretty bad news for them.”

She said the man showed her all the documents about the lease – a lease agreement and the receipt for the money.

Later, after she posted a warning about the scam on social media, one of the men sent her a message apologising for intruding on her.

She didn’t want to disclose the amount the men put down, but said it was for first and last month’s rent for a six bedroom house on 30 acres. 

“He sent me screenshots of all the texts and the crazy backstory and them saying that the owners are refusing to move out when they said they would.”

“It sounds like she was stringing them along.”

Kenkel says she really feels for the people desperately trying to find a place to live. “You know, they trust people.”

The rental ad was originally posted on the Valemount Swap N Buy, for just one day. In the post, the scammer’s profile picture was a picture of the Kenkel’s firepit and pink chairs, a photo lifted off the real estate listing.

“It’s not identity theft, but the fact that someone was using my home as a way to scam somebody else, it really bothered me. But it’s just the way the world is now. We can’t sell our house without putting pictures online. But with that comes the possibility that someone might take those pictures and do whatever they want with them.”

The one man told her it had changed his faith in humanity.

“I hope that comes back. Because most of the people are good,” she said.