Beware of the Whistler Scam

As the sun sparkles and the sultry peaks of British Columbia’s most sought-after mountaintops, it’s pretty easy to find yourself blinded by the beauty. Each year, Whistler brings in over 2.7 million tourists to bask in the wonder—and many activities—that the resort-town provides. It boasts everything from snowboarding to bungee jumping, and has the capacity to sleep over 30,000 visitors each night across the wide array of hotels, condos, chalets, and cabins.

But some of these fancy resting spots aren’t exactly what they’re cracked up to be.

Over the past few years, there have been numerous reports of scam-artists, posing as Whistler homeowners, taking advantage of unsuspecting tourists—and I once almost fell into the trap.

I was organizing a last-minute weekend trip to Whistler for my friends and I. After taking a long and hard look at the expensive hotels, I figured I’d turn to craigslist for a better deal. I had sifted through quite a few ads when I found a chalet for a more than reasonable price. The pictures looked luxurious—but it was the hottub on the balcony that really caught my eye.

I sent out an email to find out if the unit was still available. With the trip only being two weeks away, I figured it was highly unlikely that this prized suite would still be available. But to my amazement, the homeowner contacted me back shortly thereafter telling me it was ready to go.

I took a look at the paperwork (which was far from comprehensive, but what could you expect from a craigslist ad?), and after signing the dotted line, there was nothing left to do but make payment. But instead of dropping a credit card deposit, I was asked for the full payment—about $900 via an interac e-transfer—up front.

Now in many other instances, this writer might have noticed that he was up against a scam-artist. But after desperately scouring the Internet for nice place on short notice (not to mention that my eyes were salivating at the pictures) I was actually about ready to forward over my cash. Luckily, I ran the ad by my roommate for the sole purpose of showing off the ad and all its luxury. He immediately identified it as a scam.

As it turns out, many ads like this one exist. What generally happens, after someone makes payment, is that they are given an address—sometimes real or fake—as well as the key-code for the door. A meeting is never established with the ‘homeowner’—rather, they email you instructions on how to enter the house—usually just a key code for the door. But once you show up, the key-code for the house doesn’t work, and you quickly come to the horrific realization that you’re out a thousand dollars and a place to stay.

It soon became apparent that it was all too good to be true. I emailed the ‘homeowner’ just to be certain, and sure enough, he seemed desperate for my dollar—immediately slashing prices to try to entice me to make the deposit (FYI there’s no homeowner in their right mind that would rent out a 5 bedroom chalet for $200 dollars a night on a prime weekend in Whistler).

It’s common for students to get sucked into these scams, so next time you’re getting ready to book that weekend getaway with the gang, make sure you don’t fall into one of these traps. A good rule of thumb is to only make payments via credit cards due to their built in safety nets. At the end of the day, you might have to spend a little extra cash to make sure you and your friends have a good place to hang your hats after a long day on the slopes– but at least it won’t as expensive (and utterly disappointing) as falling victim to one of these scammers.

Has something like this ever happened to you? Hit the comment section below to share your story!

One response to “Beware of the Whistler Scam”

  1. Anonymous

    Just happened to us this weekend!??

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