It seemed legitimate. The scammer had a nice listing up on a website. He asked for all the expected items. He then collected $2,000 for a home that wasn’t his.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Dorothy Wallace-Alexander and her fiancé were looking for a new start in a new city. The couple was moving to High Point to be closer to family and friends.
“I was happy to be in High Point, a new city, it was a change for me and the kids, we were excited,” Wallace-Alexander said.
The couple needed to find a house to rent and started searching online with several different rental websites. It took some time but they eventually found a home they really liked. Wallace-Alexander called the phone number on the ad.
“He told me he was the property owner, and he was looking to rent the house out,” Wallace-Alexander said.
A couple of days later Wallace-Alexander went by the home to take a tour inside. When she pulled up to the home the owner told her to call him so he could give her the code to the lockbox.
“I called and he gave me the code to get in,” Wallace-Alexander said.
It all seemed simple, and Wallace-Alexander loved the house and was ready to rent it. After filling out a credit application and signing the rental agreement Wallace-Alexander was told to pay her deposit by going to a local Walmart and transferring the money.
The man renting the property told Wallace-Alexander he lives in Indiana and the easiest way to send him the money was a Walmart to Walmart transfer. The next day Wallace-Alexander sent $2,000 to a Walmart in Michigan City Indiana.
“We moved in within a couple of hours,” Wallace-Alexander said.
The house was exactly what the couple wanted. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac on a quiet street really close to family.
About a week or two later Wallace-Alexander noticed a car outside her home and a lady was looking at the home. She went out and spoke with the lady who told her she was thinking about renting the place. Wallace-Alexander told her she was already renting it.
The lady then told Wallace-Alexander she had just spoken with the rental company and the home was available. The lady gave Wallace-Alexander the name of the rental company to call.
“They told me I was scammed, I started to cry, my fiancé was upset,” Wallace-Alexander said.
The person who pretended to be the owner simply copied the listing or hacked into one of the sites Wallace-Alexander looked at and created a duplicate listing with his phone number.
When Wallace-Alexander called to view the property he simply called the rental company requesting the code to the lockbox so he could tour the home. He then gave Wallace-Alexander the code which is why she thought he owned the home.
“I had never been scammed I didn’t know what to do,” Wallace-Alexander said.
She reached out to News 2 for answers and to see what could be done. We immediately contacted the rental company, Walmart, and the High Point Police Department.
The police department had already been in contact with police in Indiana and an investigation was started. As for the transfer the money was sent and received by a person in Indiana. An executive with the rental company told us it would investigate the issue and get back in touch with us.
The rental company was not able to refund the $2,000 because it was not sent to them. It did however agree to allow the couple to stay in the home for a few months so they wouldn’t be out $2,000 and must immediately find a new place to live.
“I am grateful for what you guys have done for us,” Wallace-Alexander said.
As for the scam itself, it is certainly not new, but it is often successful. Scammers will often place fake listings on a variety of different websites with their phone numbers. When a potential renter calls, they pretend the property is theirs or they are the rental company.
In most cases, they make an excuse because they can’t meet in person but will email credit check info and rental agreements so it seems legitimate. In most of these cases, the potential renter also provides their credit information and social security numbers.
Rental companies try to combat this type of crime by scouring the internet and taking down fake listings. One representative we spoke with described the process as “whack a mole” in its effort to find and remove the listings.
Before renting a home and sending credit information and money you should always search multiple websites to see if the home is listed anywhere else. If it is and there are different numbers that should be a red flag that one of the listings may be a fake.
If you are asked to transfer money that should also be a red flag. The other thing you’ll want to consider is the price. In most of these fake listings, the price is much lower than the average price to entice you to call. If it’s too good to be true, there may be a reason.
As for Wallace-Alexander and her fiancé, they are staying with family now until they can find a new place to move into.