Con-artists now using short-term rentals to scam hopeful tenants

Trying to find a home to rent is already difficult in Spokane. Now, con-artists are scamming hopeful tenants out of their money and a place to live in.

Spokane resident Shareen Ross shared her story with 4 News Now in hopes that others don’t fall for this same scam.

Ross said she had been looking for a home for her and her family to rent, because their current lease was about to expire.

She looked on Facebook marketplace and saw the right place for her and her family.

“We saw this perfect home at the perfect price, and we reached out to them,” Ross explained.

A four-bedroom, three-bathroom home located on the South Hill was listed on Facebook for $1,350.

She was in contact with a guy named Robert and Todd.

“We were actually able to go in and view the home. He had, what he said was his contractor meet us there. Had the keys, and he was so knowledgeable about the house, we didn’t think twice that this was a scam,” she said.

Ross said she felt confident enough after walking through the house and asking all her questions. She said she was ready to move forward with the process and get a lease going.

She sent money through Facebook messenger, a deposit of about $2,000 to hold down the place. The men then sent a lease via email to Ross and said they will sign it and walk through the home again.

“He said he would call me the first part of the week. This was last week,” Ross said. “He didn’t contact me all week last week and then I tried contacting him over the weekend and his phone was shut off.”

4 News Now called the number as well, and it said the number was no longer in service.

On Monday night, Ross saw that the home was listed for sale.

“I contacted the real estate agent and this gentleman is not even the owner, and they don’t even know who he is. Come to find out, they had been renting their home via Airbnb,” she said.

Ross said she felt like she took the right steps to make sure she wasn’t getting duped, such as actually talking to the person over the phone and even walking through the home with someone.

“You kind of look back on every step you took. What did i miss? The only thing I feel like I could’ve missed that this was a little too good to be true,” she said.

She wants others to learn from her mistake as she decided to speak out about it.

“This can happen to anyone. I felt like I was doing all the right steps and making sure that everything was done properly. This guy was good. This guy was slick,” she said.

4 News Now reached out to the realtor. He said he’s heard of this scam before where a person rents out a short-term rental and lists the home for rent, even letting potential tenants walk through the house.

Tyler Russell, with the Better Business Bureau, said scammers are looking for what’s popular in some areas, and housing is one in Spokane.

“They try and go and find those properties and try and potentially even duplicate. That’s what happens with the scammers,” he said.

When someone might be in a time crunch too, things might often cloud their judgment.

“If you only have 10 days left before the end of the month to go and find something, they (scammers) will use those high pressure tactics to be able to get you to wire transfer money or send money via cash. So, make sure you understand what you’re getting into before you sign any contracts before you send any money,” Russell said.

Russell added that those who are buying anything online, make sure to know what payment application they are using and read the fine print.

The homeowner in this case knows about what happened, and they are all working with authorities in the investigation.