The Weatherford Police Department is investigating a rental property scam stemming from a report on Jan. 3 when a woman who claimed she paid a deposit on a rental house on Valley Drive to an unknown person that did not own the property.
“When I was over [Criminal Investigations Division] we had a few of these trickle in and it was all internet-based — no one ever met in person. This one was a pretty good [scam] because this house is actually a rental property, the suspect was able to unlock the house remotely and there is a legitimate company that the suspect was supposedly representing,” Weatherford Police Sgt. John Rudolph said. “After the lady sent in money, she was supposed to get the keys and nothing happened, so she called that company and they said they didn’t have anyone working for them by that name and were confused about how that person was able to remotely open the house.”
Rudolph said the suspect was able to hack into the electronic key lock and unlock it for the woman who went to view the home.
“She went and looked at it and was interested, and that’s when the person she was communicating with by text told her to send them a $2,000 check for a deposit and first month’s rent and they would send her the keys,” Rudolph said. “When that date came around, she never got the keys and the money was deposited into a bank account, not here but somewhere else. So now our detective is investigating the case and it may involve other agencies depending on where the bank account is actually located. Based on the phone number I saw, it looked like it was an out-of-state area code, so for us, it may not ever go anywhere.”
Rudolph said in the past, similar incidents would happen on Craigslist but have since been remedied by the company.
“I’m leery of doing everything site unseen. I know this woman went to the property and looked at it and so that kind of legitimizes some of it, but the suspect not being able to meet them there, that would be a red flag for me,” Rudolph said. “Communicating strictly by email and phone and never physically meeting a representative of the company you’re dealing with — whether it’s a rental or a purchase — I would advise against.”
Rudolph also said if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“I don’t know all the details on this case as far as if the price was super cheap, but Valley Drive, where this house is located, those are nice houses and I believe they’re on an acre of land too, so if the rent was $1,000 or less, that’s a too-good-to-be-true situation,” Rudolph said. “That’s what [these scammers] do — they advertise something that catches someone’s attention quick, get the money and then move on to the next victim.”
The WPD completed a deceptive trade practice report on the incident.
Under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a victim has the right to sue for damages and may recover up to three times the damages amount, according to the Attorney General of Texas website. More information about complaints can be found by visiting texasattorneygeneral.gov.