Scammers used photos and a listing from a legitimate rental ad to scam a couple looking to rent a home in Johnston County. The victims, both from Wake County, were looking to rent in the Cleveland-area and began looking at home rentals ads on CraigsList. The found a nice 1,200 square foot home for rent off North Shiloh Road for only $800 a month.
They replied to the ad and were given a code to the lock box on the front door. After seeing the home in person and agreeing to rent the property, they were instructed to make an online payment of $1,600 – $800 for the deposit and $800 for the first month’s rent. A couple of days later, they started moving into the home but noticed other people were still stopping by the address to look at renting the house.
The couple was unable to make contact by email with the person they thought was the landlord. They soon discovered they had been scammed and the house belonged to someone else.
Just like this case, authorities say the scammers will give an excuse as to why they can’t show you the home in person. The property is usually listed several hundred dollars below what a similar home would rent for in the area. In some cases, they want money up front before you view the home. Oftentimes the address of the home is not revealed in the listing, only the city. In some cases, 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.
The couple reported the incident to law enforcement. Authorities don’t know how the scammer was able to obtain the code to the lock box but they are investigating and trying to identify the suspect.