HINESVILLE, Ga. (WTOC) - A family of five set to move into their new rental Friday is now without a home due to a scam.
Despite touring the property themselves and even having a key to the home, they found out, it wasn’t theirs.
Rawls Realty, which deals with properties across southeast Georgia, came across a surprising email from that family earlier in the week.
“She (assistant property manager) showed me an email that said they had already paid $1,300 and was looking to secure the property to actually move in today (Friday),” said Rawls Co-owner Nicole Rawls.
Surprising because no one at Rawls had rented the Hinesville property out to anyone. But after talking with the family, they began to uncover exactly what had happened.
“The individual posted one of our ads in Craigslist,” said Rawls.
That individual, a scammer, had copied their ad and images from a reputable reality site.
“We use a service that allows people to go and look at the property without us accompanying them,” said Rawls.
She went on to explain that the family was directed by the scammer to register through the website.
After that they were given a code to a lock box which gave them access to a key for the home.
Once the family said they wanted the home they were given a bank account number to send their deposit to and told to keep the key.
Never meeting or talking to their alleged realtor.
“They were just texting and emailing him because he would give them excuses about why he couldn’t call,” according to Rawls.
Something Rawls said Rawls Realty would never do and for a good reason.
“So that way you see that there’s an office, number one, and you got a face to deal with here and who took my money.”
President of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida & Southeast Atlantic Tom Stephens says the toughest part of a scam like this is, “you probably don’t know his real name or where he lives or anything like that so it’s probably going to be impossible to get that money back.”
As for how Rawls Realty is handling the scam.
“We’ve put a disclosure in all of our ads now going forward to warn people that there are scams out there,” said Rawls, encouraging applicants to call them if they have any concerns.
Rawls added that she told the family the property is available to rent, however the family informed her after being scammed they now don’t have the money to afford the home.
Rawls says the family did file a police report.
She believes more than one person is involved in the scam and that it could happen anywhere.