2 dozen female real estate agents targeted by obscene calls and messages in Vancouver area

About two dozen women who work in the Vancouver-area real estate industry have been targeted by someone sending obscene images and making threatening phone calls, CBC has learned.

Colette Gerber, chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, described it as a “very sad situation” that began a few months ago and has continued at least through last week.

“In the evenings, a male would call one of our members — always women — and harass them with explicit images, texts and phone calls. It’s been quite scary for them,” Gerber said.

“Once we became aware of it, we encouraged our members who had interactions with this individual to file a police report.”

Female real estate agents in multiple cities in B.C.’s Lower Mainland have been targeted and reports have been made to at least six police agencies, according to internal board emails obtained by CBC. The Vancouver Police Department has now taken over the file.

VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin confirmed the calls are being investigated by the domestic violence and criminal harassment unit, but said she couldn’t provide any further details.

To date, there have been no reports of physical harm.

Gerber said the person responsible appears to be using spoofed phone numbers, altering their caller ID information to disguise their identity. That makes the calls difficult to trace.

“When this person calls, they start out talking about real estate and then very quickly it devolves into somewhat threatening conversations,” she said.

According to an email from board staff to the affected women, the man will sometimes say his father or father-in-law is moving into a care home and needs to sell his house.

Gerber said this isn’t the first time local female realtors have received calls from a serial harasser. A similar situation happened about three years ago, but the calls stopped after police identified the person responsible and told him officers were watching, she said.

Similar cases have also been reported in Alberta and in Ontario.

“Any time that we hear of harassment of our members, women or men, in any way, shape or form, we get very concerned,” Gerber said.

“When you get harassed for doing your job or harassed for, in this case, just being female, that’s just plain wrong.”

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