GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you are looking to move, make sure you know who you are renting from. There’s a Craigslist scam that has resurfaced, and wiped out the savings account of one Grand Rapids woman who is now homeless. Scammers are copying real listings for rentals and posing as the owners then taking off with the victim’s money; leaving families without a place to stay.
“Why would they do this to someone who needs a place a chance of getting a place to stay? Why?” asked Teresa Johnson.
Johnson and her 4-year-old daughter and their dog are now living in a motel. Saturday was supposed to be the day they moved into a three-bedroom house, in a quiet Alger Heights neighborhood.
The listing on Craigslist said the owner was on a mission trip in Haiti and looking for someone to rent out the home while they were away.
“He was a man of the ‘cloth’ so I’m thinking that he’s a good person,” said Johnson.
They emailed back and forth and Teresa was told she could move in. All she had to do was send $16,000 for a security deposit.
“I had only $800 and I could give him $800,” said Johnson. “That was all of my savings.”
She sent the money through Western Union to Arizona. When she went by the house to see it in person there where lights on and a man inside. It was the real owner.
“I just couldn’t believe that someone could do that,” said the real owner, who asked not to be identified.
He said the house is listed for rent but not on Craigslist and he wouldn’t ask for money upfront. “They copy and pasted the ad, basically.”
“You know you think that you are wise enough and street smart and beware of wolves in sheep clothing and I should have known better. But I was just like gung-ho, like wow today is the day God has answered my call. I got this blessing,” said Johnson.
The real owner, put a post on Craigslist to warn people about the scam. Johnson is still looking for a place to stay, but she’ll have to save up again before she can move.