A Muskegon area woman wants others to be aware of a rental scam that is going on in West Michigan.
She says the Craigslist ad was convincing because the pictures were real. The ad said a home was for rent and available within the next few weeks. "We were in a desperate situation," says Shannon Rider.
In March, Rider and her mother found out their current rental home in Muskegon, was being sold. She found a new house on Craigslist, but the person claiming to be the landlord, said they couldn't get in to see it.
"Because they were moving out. So, when we approached the house, we didn't get out. We saw boxes, so we assumed we can't get in. I thought maybe she'll email us some pictures."
The house had everything they needed; a fenced-in yard for her two dogs and was only $725 a month. Rider filled out the rental application and emailed it to the woman in the ad.
"So, it was two days later, we were approved. And she said to send a security deposit that day to reserve the house, if we were serious about it."
The woman told Rider she was out of town, so she would have to send a deposit and first month’s rent to her assistant. "It went from Walmart to Walmart. which is some sort of money gram. That's the only way it could go."
She wired $1450 dollars to a person named “Samu Ogbimi.” Perhaps the name should have been a red flag, but Rider says the other information was legit.
"I checked out what was online, what they were sending me. The phone numbers. It was all from a company in Los Angeles. Researching that, I didn't have a problem sending the money."
When it came time to move-in, Rider never received the keys and no one returned her calls. She went over to the house to see what was going on. "I knocked on the door. The woman was confused as much as I was confused."
The woman told Rider she had just purchased the home and it wasn't for rent. It appears someone took the information off the real estate listing and put it on Craigslist
Rider is hoping something comes through in the next week. She also wants others to be careful.
Here's how you can protect yourself against scammers:
- Don't wire money or use a prepaid debit card. You can't get that money back.
- Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rent, great amenities and other perks.
- See the property in person: Don't send money to someone you've never met.
- Don't fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
- Does the landlord actually own the home? You can do a deed search for that address by checking the county's website.
Rider did file a police report. Muskegon Police confirm that they are investigating the incident.
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