UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Thomas Woods and Catherine Krack were in the market for a new place to call home.
They started their search on Craigslist, and quickly found a listing for a 1,200-square-foot home near Upper Arlington — a steal, for just $850 a month.
The price initially seemed too good to be true, so, they reached out to the property owner.
“He was giving us a story about how him and his wife moved, and they want somebody that will come in and take care of their home,” Krack said. “Everything seemed legit. With the exception of we never met this person in-person.”
The couple thought the lack of a face-to-face meeting, and the cost, were a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is also why they agreed to electronically send a deposit and money to cover additional expenses.
Ultimately, through Bitcoin and Apple gift cards, which the property owner asked for, the couple spent $2,100 total.
“The last bit of money that we had all went to a U-Haul and storage. So, we literally had zero dollars to our name,” Krack said.
No money, and no home. Ten days after that first conversation, they heard from the real owners of the property – a local real estate company.
The man they believed to be the landlord, who posted the ad on Craigslist, was a scammer.
“Unfortunately, there are just too many scammers that can put the consumer into a bad position,” said Matthew Long, a realtor with HER realtors.
Long said scammers copy and repost legitimate ads online, pricing them low to catch renters looking for a bargain, and ask prospective renters to wire a deposit.
“A lot of these scams, they’re asking for money very quickly, and that, to me, is definitely something a consumer should be watching out for,” Long said.
His advice, if you’re planning to rent or buy: Use an established property manager or a broker. They have rules and regulations they have to adhere to that will protect you and your money.
“Always double check who you’re dealing with,” Long said.
A lesson Woods and Krack said they learned too late.
“Meet with the person,” Krack advised. “Don’t give them anything until you meet with them. Meet with them and make sure that they have a lease in hand and things like that, before any money exchanges.”
The couple is staying with friends and family while they get back on their feet and find a new place. They’ve filed a police report, but weren’t able to get their money back. And the scammer has repeatedly changed phone numbers.
But there’s another part to this story: The couple actually moved into the home for more than a week before they learned that they had been scammed.
Tune in to Better Call 4 this Thursday to find out how that happened.