A Clayton home was used this week in an online housing scam. Thanks to a savvy renter, the scammer was unable to get any money.
The renter and his fiancée, who wished not to be named, reached out to WTSB News to alert others to be aware.
The couple was looking at moving to Johnston County with their two children and turned to CraigsList to search for a nice home in a good neighborhood to rent.
They were immediately attracted to a home on Wensley Court, off Castleberry Road, because the rent was only $950 per month while similar homes in the area were renting for $1,300.
They contacted a phone number on the ad but were immediately asked to begin texting.
The scammer, who claimed to be the owner of the home, said he was out of town with his daughter and was unable to show the home in person. However, he provided a code that worked on the lock box of the home for the couple to view the vacant property.
After viewing the home, the couple was told to send in a $950 deposit plus the first month’s rent of $950. A $35 application fee was also required.
The couple however spotted a sign in the front yard of the home for a Raleigh rental company. They contacted the rental company, Progressive Residential, and were told the home was actually for rent for $1,320 and the CraigsList ad was not from their company and was a scam.
The scammer, who used the name Mr. Christopher, apparently used photos from the Progressive Residential website to post on the CraigsList ad.
Once the couple alerted the scammer by telephone they were not paying the money and the ad was fake, the individual began cursing at them and eventually hung up the phone.
WTSB News notified the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office about the scam ad. Within hours the posting was removed by the suspect, who has yet to be identified.
We reached out to Progressive Residential to see if any of their other homes in Johnston County were the target of the scam but no one from the company returned our phone calls before our news deadline.
This is the third housing scam we’re reported on in recent months.
Authorities say the scammers give an excuse as to why they can’t show you the home in person, but the property is usually listed several hundred dollars below what a similar home would rent for in the area. They also want money up front before you view the home. Oftentimes the address of the home is not revealed, only the city. And usually the photos are not posted with the listing. Some of the temporarily email accounts they establish have unusual user names.
If you are unable to easily verify the owner of a property listed for rent online, or confirm if the home even exists, experts say don’t hesitate to look for another property.