So much growth in Middle Tennessee does not come without some growing pains — that includes rental scams where people are unknowingly giving money to con-artists renting properties online that they don’t actually own.
It just happened to News 2 viewer Devron Kirkland.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Kirkland said. “I was in a hard place; still am.”
Kirkland started moving into his dream home on Tuesday in Murfreesboro using a U-Haul truck he rented.
“It was a very nice neighborhood,” he said. “Something you could think about building a future with, you know?”
After he dropping off a few possession at the apartment, the real tenant –a man under contract to take possession of the home — also dropped by. He saw someone else’s furniture and clothing in the home and called the property management company handling his lease.
The property manager came to the home and left a note, and filed a report with Murfreesboro Police.
When Kirkland, 21, returned home and found the note, he said his dream was shattered.
“I got there, found a note on the stairway. It said I was trespassing — and that’s when question marks popped up in my head, and I knew that I had been scammed.”
Kirkland said he saw the $1,600/month home advertised online for a mere $700 — a deal he knew might be too good to be true but prayed would somehow work out.
“Maybe this is an opportunity I cannot pass up,” Kirkland recalled. “It’s a deal of lifetime, maybe — you know what I’m saying?”
At the time it went down, Kirkland said, it all seemed so real.
“I saw the ad on Zillow, [it] seemed so real,” Kirkland said. “He sent me the contract; I e-filed it and everything.”
Not only did Kirkland lose his dream house, he also lost the lease on the apartment where he currently lives and is scrambling to find a place to live.
“It hurts me — all my hard earned money, waking up at 4:50 am just to get to work,” he said. “Just for someone to scam me and put me out, out on the street, basically.”
What did the hard-working young man want to say to the scam artists who emptied his bank account by almost $2,000?
“You’re a heartless person, basically,” he said. “It is very hard out here. Very hard out here in the real world. You are selling people fake dreams and fantasy, man.”
According to fraud experts, there are a few ways you can avoid falling for traps and scams like his one.
First, if it is too good to be true, it is.
Secondly, slow down. Think about the deal. Research the deal. Do your homework, even search the address online tp see if there are any red flags.
And finally, plan to meet the owner or the representative of the rental property face-to-face so you know with whom you are dealing.
According to David Hoke, president of the National Assoc. of Professional Property Managers in Middle Tennessee, there all kinds of people out there trying to dupe the public by posting fraudulent listings on Facebook, Zillow Craig’s List — really, any place they can pose as the property owner.
Typically, Hoke said, scammers will post ‘hard-luck stories’ about moving in or out of state or things like, ‘I just want someone to live in the house,’ that could entice desperate people looking for a new place.
“It’s always involving never meeting anyone and wiring money through Walmart or some other online thing,” Hoke said. “These folks gave $1,000 and even signed a fake lease online, but they never met anyone. They get a fraudulently-obtained key code, get access to the home, and they think they’ve been ripped off”
Hoke also represents the property owner leasing Kirkland’s dream home.
“If you think you are being scammed, pay attention [and] meet your property manager,” Hoke said. “We only accept first payment, security deposit and first [month’s] rent at our office, and it is important to get their facts from the property manager. If it is legit, you have to meet the owner, their representative. Never give up your money until you know who you are giving it to.”
If you would like to donate and help Kirkland, click here.