Northeast Ohio rental scams on the rise amid the pandemic

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 4:27 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Northeast Ohio man said he was scammed out of money that was meant to get his family in a house before the holidays.

As so many families are struggling to pay rent amid the pandemic, 19 News investigators discovered rental scams are up.

William Huddleston said he went looking for housing a few weeks ago.

He said the mother of his children had just told him she was losing their housing.

“I was like, I’ve got to step up as a father,” Huddleston said.

He found a post on Craigslist-- $600 for a remodeled four bedroom, one bathroom house in Akron.

On the bottom of the ad, the website has a warning posted, saying not to send any money sight unseen.

Huddleson said he did see the house. Before sending the supposed landlord $800 for the keys, he went to the house.

“I went there and no one was there, so everything looked legit,” he said.

However, once he sent the money through Zelle, communication went dark.

“It’s an outrageous thing. It’s just one thing after another this year,” he said. “I had planned on being in a house and having a thanksgiving dinner with my family.

So, he returned to the house, and knocked on the door with his supposed lease in hand.

“The gentleman said, ‘You are the third person this week to come up to our door. We are the homeowners,’” Huddleston said.

His hope for the holiday season with his family shattered. It’s unclear who’s behind the Craigslist post, but the homeowners told him that it is not for rent.

Frustrated and confused, he made a fraud report with his bank and Craigslist.

“Apparently I’m not the only one in the United States to be scammed out of a Craigslist rental,” he said.

According to the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker, reports of “rental scams” are up 18 percent this year to date than last year at this time.

Huddleston is worried though, because despite his reports, the house is still listed online.

“I don’t want this happening to someone else,” he said.

There are a lot of tell-tail signs something may be a scam. For example, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Our partners at the Cuyahoga County scam Squad encourage people to always report a rental scam to them and police.

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