It's an old scam with a new twist: con artists bilking people looking for a home to rent. But authorities say now criminals are posing as well-known businesses to rip off victims.
"It is tough to look at the house,” said Jenny Marroquin, a recent victim of a scam. “It really is."
Tough because this is where Jenny Marroquin thought she’d be moving in with her five-year-old daughter Angie, who is deaf.
“She would come home every day from school saying, when are we going to go to our new house?" recalled Marroquin. She was the victim of a rental scam. She found the one-bedroom apartment listed on a popular website.
Someone posing as the owner said she was out of town but Marroquin could have the unit, she just needed to come up with $1,600 for a security deposit and first month’s rent.
The person told Marroquin the entire transaction would be handled by Airbnb.
"Because she said it was through Airbnb, I was thinking you know that's a legitimate agency," admitted Marroquin. She followed the specific payment instructions, sending the money on a prepaid Visa card. But the whole thing was a sham.
The pictures of the apartment were fake and so were the emails that appeared to come from Airbnb.
The FBI says they’ve seen this kind of scam explode nationwide, thieves using real companies to fool victims. The email Marroquin received looks like it’s from customer service but after closer inspection, it was noticed that it’s coming from a fake consultant.com instead of the real Airbnb.com.
“This person not only messed with my money but they also messed with the time that I can give to my daughter," said Marroquin.
The story does take a happy turn. A friend started an online fundraising page for Marroquin and raised thousands of dollars. It was enough for her and her daughter to find a new home.