There's a new scheme to cheat local renters out of thousands of dollars.
An Orlando woman thought she rented a home from a well-known company, but days after moving in, she was kicked out and lost $2,000.
Action 9 consumer reporter Todd Ulrich investigated how scammers trick renters and why it's so hard for victims to get their money back.
“You had to pack within hours?” Ulrich asked.
“Yes,” Nickcola Webster said.
“And get out?” Ulrich asked.
“Yes,” Webster said.
Ulrich met with Webster just 12 hours after she loaded her car and a rental truck with all her belongings.
She was kicked out of a home she rented after paying $2,200 upfront.
“At that point I was still shocked. I couldn't believe that could happen,” Webster said.
Webster had searched rental homes online. She found a listing by what appeared to be American Homes 4 Rent, a company that owns and rents dozens of local homes.
Webster said she heard, “If you do the deposit and the rent, then you can move in right away.”
She said the company sent her the code for the lockbox on the front door so she could get inside.
Webster wired $2,200 to what she thought was the company's bank account, and then she moved in. Two days later, the real American Homes 4 Rent company said she had to move out.
“She says, ‘You all got scammed because we had nothing to do with that,’” Webster said she was told.
It's a rental scam with a new twist. Scammers posing as legitimate rental companies steal access codes to the lockboxes for actual listed properties.
Consumer experts say it’s a sophisticated scam that is hard to spot until you're burned.
“Did the consumer ask enough questions in the sense of contracts? What did the actual contract say? Did it have actual company name on letterhead?” said Erika Undaneta with the Better Business Bureau.
If there's a realtor lockbox, you can verify the agent's state license and broker's name.
Webster said she will ask these and other questions next time she is looking for a home to rent.
She's complained to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
“Now we're out of money and out of a place,” Webster said.
Scammers could use any legitimate company's name and listing to trick consumers.
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