ORLANDO, Fla. — A local family is now homeless after losing their entire savings to a rental-home scam.
Action 9 was there as the family was kicked out of a home after paying over $7,000 to the person whom they thought was the owner of the house.
“We have to get it all right now, or they’re going to trespass us and put us in jail,” Lauren Brock said.
It was a frantic race against the clock in the sweltering heat for Brock and her fiancé. When Action 9 arrived, the couple only had 10 minutes left to take their stuff and get off the property.
“We get, you know, penalized and then treated like we’re criminals, like we’ve done something wrong,” Brock’s fiance’ explained.
According to Brock, the nightmare began when she spotted a home in east Orlando that was listed for rent on Facebook marketplace. It was everything she wanted at a great price. Then the person she thought was the owner directed her to tour the home using Rently, an app used by landlords that lets prospective tenants self-tour the properties.
“The house was immaculate and beautiful inside and I was just, ‘My god, thank you, I’m so grateful,’ and then he started getting kind of pushy with the money,” Brock said.
She thought it was odd when he asked for initial payments with eBay gift cards, but he had all the right answers, so she signed what looked like a lease, moved in and later, pre-paid an additional four months of rent totaling over $7,000.
Then it all unraveled when a deputy knocked on the door and told them they had no right to be there.
“I didn’t deserve to be thrown on the street for it. I mean, that’s what we’re looking at right now,” said Brock as she held back tears sitting on the sidewalk.
The home is a rental, but its real owner is Progress Residential.
Scammers often take real listings, hijack them as their own and offer enticing rates to hook desperate renters.
“If they’re advertising a three-bedroom, single-family home for $1,000 a month, that’s a red flag,” said attorney Jeffrey Hussey.
Hussey is with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and says would-be renters need to look out for a low price, wanting a large sum up front and not being able to meet in person.
According to the FBI, nearly $400,000,000 were lost in 2022 to frauds involving real estate, including rental scams.
Brock says the conman also got into her bank account and completely wiped her out, “I just started crying.”
As soon as the couple left the property, their trailer broke a few feet away.
Brock wonders how they’ll get back on their feet after this kick in the gut. “On the street, we don’t even have hotel money.”
Progress Residential put up no-trespassing signs after the couple was kicked out. The company told Action 9 that rental scams are a big problem, they have a team that investigates any possible fraud using their properties, and they try to work closely with the victims to help them find a resolution.
If you think you’ve been taken by an online rental con, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center right away.
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