“Our dreams were crushed” | Rental scams on the rise as crooks take advantage of pandemic | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Clever scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and convincing people to hand over thousands of dollars.

According to the Northeast Tenn. Association of Realtors, rental scams are on the rise, likely due to an increase in rental and property prices over the past 18 months.

“We were all happy, we were so excited and then all our dreams were shattered in one day and we just thought they got us,” said Katie Goodyear, who was the victim of nasty rental fraud.

Goodyear and her family are in the market for a home and found the perfect home to rent from a listing on Craigslist. or so they thought.

“I think I was so excited about the fact that this was happening that I ignored every red flag that was there. We just thought we’d have our little home forever, ”said Goodyear.

She contacted who she believed owned the house on the website and communicated with them via text message. This person has put together a believable story of fake rental documents that they can fill out and sign. The scammers told Goodyear they needed to get someone inside the house quickly and didn’t want it to stand empty in the winter months as they had moved out of town.

They also said Goodyear could not see inside the house or meet in person due to COVID-19.

“Without the coronavirus, this would not have happened, because that’s why we didn’t meet with them,” Goodyear said. “I told him I actually wanted to speak to someone, I said I didn’t speak to anyone the whole time.”

She realized she had been scammed after sending the crooks $ 2,400 through the Cash App mobile money transfer service, and they were still trying to get her to send another $ 1,200 that threatened she would lose the listing. The cat was out of the pocket when she looked up the so-called renter’s Facebook profile, sent them a message, and discovered that she had been given a false name.

She said, ‘No, we never spoke. ‘She told me that they had also been betrayed before,’ said Goodyear.

The scammers used their latest victims’ ID cards to scam the next.

“You’re really good at it. Really good at it. It’s a job, ”said Goodyear.

The Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors says Craigslist is a popular platform for scammers, and they often steal photos and information from real listings to create fake ads. This is exactly what happened to the Goodyear family.

“They have all the information they really need. All you have to do is go in and view, copy and paste the pictures. You can find out how many bedrooms and bathrooms the house has. You can pretty much find all of this information by doing a Google search, ”said Karissa Winstead, Real Estate Agent at Remax Checkmate.

When a price or situation seems too good to be true, Winstead advises that it should already be a red flag. She added an owner shouldn’t get away with refusing to see you in person.

“I always encourage people to go in and look for themselves. If anything, take a virtual tour. Just let that person show you that they are real on camera and then take you around the house and show it off virtually, ”Winstead said.

Hoping this scam doesn’t fool any other family, Goodyear says those looking to rent should be aware of the warning signs they’ve missed.

“Any lack of willingness to meet because action can be taken,” Goodyear said. “Without this pandemic, I wouldn’t have done that at all.”

Some other red flags to look out for are that the owner is comfortably “out of town” or unable to meet, unable to show you the inside of the home, or offering a price that is extremely below average. An attempt to track your payment very quickly within a few days or less can also be a sign of fraud. or if they want you to pay or transfer money quickly using an application like Cash App.

The Goodyear family say when they drove past the Kingsport house to at least see the outside, they noticed a sale sign in the yard associated with a real estate company. The impostor rejected this when they brought it up to them. Winstead recommends that if you look at an online listing and see such a sale sign, call the agent’s number to make sure the listing found online is not fake.