PETERSBURG, Va. -- While rising rent prices have made finding an affordable home more difficult, it’s created an optimal time for scammers to make a new deal. In search of a new home for her family, Richmond resident Malika White fell victim to a home rental scam.
"I just wanted like a safer neighborhood", said White.
The mother of two had no luck finding a new place she could afford until she found a Petersburg home on Craigslist.
"It said, lovely home, two bedrooms for $800 rent. And that's kind of cheap to me”, said White.
She responded to the ad, inquiring about the home and the man listed as the landlord said he would send her the application as long as she promised to take care of the home.
"I’m looking for a decent person that's going to take care of the home, that’s God-fearing and a clean person that's going take care of the home like it's their own,” he told White.
She said that’s exactly what she was prepared to do, White paid her $50 application fee via Cashapp and waited to be approved. Twenty-four hours later White learned she was approved and was told now all she had to do was send an $800 security deposit. White sent the money hoping to secure the home, a mistake that she and five million other renters have made according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
The landlord never sent the keys and didn’t reach out to White until 3 a.m. the next morning.
“He was like, I apologize because I couldn't keep my word with you. But my attorney said in order for me to release the keys to you. You need to pay the first and last and security deposits”, said White.
It was then White said she knew she was being scammed, the home was never really for rent and the pictures she saw were likely from a rental property website.
Leslie Black from the BBB says scams like this happen often and warns against sending any money for a home without doing research on the property and the landlord.
“They steal the information from these rental sites and create a look-alike website”, said White. “A real quick search within a minute of that rental address would have shown her a lot of the information that she needed to see to not move forward with an application.”
She says never wire money to strangers and if it seems like it’s too good to be true it probably is.
"Con artists, they like to make you feel that you've got to make a quick decision, a hasty decision or else the rental house will be gone.”, said White.
When we called the number for the landlord he did not answer and the police told White it may be hard to find him as the name he used may not be his real name. Visit the BBB website for more information on how to avoid scams like these.