DENVER (KDVR) — Scammers are turning up the heat by using online ads to trick those looking for reasonable housing during the pandemic.
However, there are ways you can protect yourself.
Newly married couple Phillip Schuler and Nayeli Diaz tell the FOX31 Problem Solvers they were conned out of thousands after responding to an ad for a rental home.
“You’re working hard to get ahead in life and then these people just take advantage,” Diaz said.
Schuler tells FOX31 the ad looked credible and the so-called “landlord” even provided him with a code to take a look inside the house.
Schuler was required to send a $2,300 deposit through a payment app first.
After paying the deposit, Schuler says the man disappeared and disconnected his phone number.
“We barely had enough money to even put down on like a down payment and we would all scrimp and save and just try to put money together and then he stole that money from us,” Schuler said.
Schuler, his wife and father-in-law, who is on dialysis, now have nowhere to call home since they didn’t renew the lease on the apartment where they had been living. For now, they are staying in an extended-stay hotel but say they can’t afford to remain on the premises much longer.
“I was just in shock and I couldn’t believe somebody would do something like that,” Diaz said.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser tells the Problem Solvers it is best to find a home through rental agencies or trusted websites.
“Someone will present themselves as if they’re legitimate but what they actually are is a fraudster,” Weiser said.
Weiser says renters can check public property records to verify whether a person or business offering a home for rent is legitimate.
“Be very careful, I would not be giving any money on a so-called good faith payment and I’d be very careful about giving any credit card information because you are taking a real risk,” said Weiser. He also encourages victims to report fraud.
Schuler filed a police report. Now, the family will have to try to find another place to live that they can afford after losing so much money to a fraudster.
Schuler said, “people are already hurting, people out of work, getting sick, it’s just like, I mean, how can people do that during a crisis right now in America?”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the couple.