SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Rental prices in the Lowcountry are still high and scam artists continue to lure potential renters looking for a good deal.
When Latoya Tremble relocated to the Lowcountry this summer, she was looking for something reasonably priced with enough space for five children. She found a home on Craigslist and made an appointment to meet a man named Josh Hunt to see the house.
“When he showed the house he was telling me about how he installed the fan and had to recently install the dishwasher,” Tremble said. “He knew a lot about the home.”
The house in Summerville had sign for American Homes 4 Rent out front, but the man told Tremble he often used te company to show his properties. Tremble filled out an application and was approved within 24 hours. She sent a money order for $2,000 to cover her deposit and first month’s rent.
Her first red flag came when the owner didn’t remove the lock box from the front door. Tremble called the owner to get it removed.
“He basically paid someone to to come and cut the lock box off the door,” Tremble said.
A few weeks later, an officer and a property manager showed up at her front door.
“He basically said that the person I signed my lease through was not the rightful owner of the home,” Tremble said.
Tremble suddenly realized she was the victim of a rental scam. She’d paid $3,000 to live in the Summerville home but was being told she had 48 hours to get out.
Carri Grube Lybarker with the Department of Consumer Affairs says online rental scams are nothing new. She says a simple internet search may be your best defense.
“It will reveal whether or not a house is on multiple sites which is a red flag, especially if there’s different contact information made available there,” Lybarker said.
Tremble filed a report with the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and was assigned a lawyer through South Carolina Legal Services. She eventually found a new home for her family, but has struggled to come up with the money to move again.
Lybarker says you should always see the property and meet the property owner or manager in person before you ever send any money. If you feel like you’ve been a victim of this scam, you should file a police report and you can also report it to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
American Homes was contacted but never issued a comment for this story.
If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at Scams@live5news.com.