FTC: Rental schemes are on the rise

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you’re looking to rent a home, then you already know the frustrations you face – high rent, lack of inventory, or objectionable locations. One family thought they found their perfect rental property, until they realized the home belonged to someone else – the bank.

Challenged with credit issues, Francie Nelson says she and her family have been struggling to find a home. She jumped at the chance to get into one when she saw it listed on Craigslist, and even met who she thought was the homeowner.

“She was here. We met her here, signed a lease, all things that would happen in a normal scenario,” said Nelson.

Nelson paid $1,800 cash to move in. But one day later, after her kids got settled in, the police showed up, telling her the house was in foreclosure. Now, she’s angry about getting scammed and losing the only money she had.

“We said thank you with tears in our eyes and gave her all our money,” Nelson recalled. “She handed us keys like she was doing us a favor. I don’t know what kind of person does that.”

Police were able to make an arrest in the case, and said the so-called homeowner was using a false name and negotiated lease terms for the home, but had no authority to do so.

Nelson and her children plan to stay in the house until it’s auctioned off in October. She said she already paid the rent and has nowhere else to go.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, rental scams are on the rise. Bottom line – never give cash as your deposit, and always make sure you get something in writing that the rental house is free and clear of any liens, short sales or foreclosures.

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