LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Just like when Goldilocks broke into the bears’ home and ate all their porridge, this story includes an elderly woman who found herself scammed by an alleged landlord on Facebook Marketplace.
The incident happened on March 12. The victim wished to remain anonymous but told News 10 the bizarre story.
“I just thought this was really crazy like this would happen to me. I just felt like it was a normal day. I will go home and just relax at home but chaos broke out when I arrived,” she said.
Having just moved into her new home she said that she was coming home from work and noticed her window was broken outside. Alerted, the victim went inside the house and found an elderly woman and her dog in the second bedroom sleeping.
Waking the woman up she said the woman told her, “this is my house. I found this house on Facebook Marketplace and I gave money to the landlord to rent it out and he told me to break into the window and wait for someone to come by and to give her a key.”
In disbelief, the victim said that she called the police and reported the incident. She had several officers come and tell her to check her items. She said about $2,500 worth of valuable items, including a gold chain, an iPad and her class ring, were taken.
“This is my first time going through something like this. I would have never imagined that I would be a victim,” she said.
Sgt. Robin Green with the Lafayette Police Department said the woman was from Tennessee and sent the landlord over $800 for a deposit to rent the home. It is unknown how the transaction was done.
News 10 reached out to Rebekah McGee, a broker with McGeeScott Realty, who mentioned there are signs to look out for when dealing with rental scams.
“We started seeing this happen maybe about two years ago with some of our listings. Actually, it happened to me personally on one of my personal rented homes that I had listed for rent,” said McGee. “I see it happening more on the Facebook Marketplace. Basically what these scammers are doing is they take our listings sometimes and they hijack them and they create Facebook Marketplace listings with our addresses and the pictures and even the write-up in the description of our listings.”
She also said that when you see the listings, they look too good to be true. Especially if the picture of the house is a really nice house and they have it listed for a price that is below the market value of what other homes are listed for rent.
“Another thing you can do is you can Google the address to see if the house is listed for sale because sometimes what they’ll do is they’ll take the listings that are currently active for sale, and then they’ll post them for rent and it’s not, you know, it’s not us posting these properties for rent it is the actual scammers,” McGee added. “So if the house is listed for sale, you can maybe reach out to the company that has it listed and ask if it is also for rent to someone that you know has the property listed, or talk to a realtor.”
She told News 10 that you can tell it’s a scam if they’ll want you to go look at the house and just go peek through the windows and not meet you there. She said to always insist on meeting someone there and actually going to walk through the house.
“Never send money to secure a property without going to look at it first because if it’s really for rent, you know the person that’s renting it is going to want to meet you first and take an application and there’s a process that you will have to go through,” she said. “Unfortunately these scammers a lot of times, they’re not even local. They’re in another country pulling up our property. The internet is great and it’s nice being able to have all these different apps you can get on and search for properties, but you still have to do your due diligence.”
Overall, she added that the best thing you can do when you’re looking for a property is to reach out to the professionals that are in that industry that will help you and make sure that you don’t get scammed.
The victim hopes someone can be held responsible. Green also said that the case has been handed to the DA’s office and they’re looking into whether or not they are going to press charges.