Police: 22 people fall victim to rental scam

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 2:51 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Detectives with the Murfreesboro Police Department have been warning residents to not fall victim to rental scammers.

Since the beginning of 2022, there have been 22 rental scams reported in Murfreesboro.

“These scammers often use online sites like Craigslist to post the rental properties,” said Detective Steven Vajcner. “They often steal photos and information of legitimate listing and make fake ads.”

In one of the cases, a female victim sent a scammer $4,190 through the mobile money transferring service Cash App. The money was supposedly for a deposit, the first month’s rent, and a lock box removal fee for a rental property on Hamberton Circle.

The woman moved into the home with all of her belongings, however, while she was out of state for a family emergency, she was given an eviction notice. The victim called the company about the eviction notice and was informed she was a victim of a rental scam.

For Zhuri Winfree-givens, after months of searching for a home, she finally found one only to find out a few days after paying and moving in that she had been scammed.

“I really don’t have any words for it. I really don’t,” Zhuri Winfree-givens said. “I looked at several different realtors websites and inquired about several different properties.”

After dozens of applications, she felt hopeless, until she got a call.

“This house was ready for rent and that we could move along with the application process,” said Winfree-givens.

Within days she was approved and paid more than $4,000 as a down payment and deposit through Cashapp.

“I started moving my stuff in but I had to go home due to a family emergency, so I wasn’t in the property for a few weeks,” Zhuri Winfree-givens said.

But when she came back she found a note on her door.

“This is a notice of unauthorized occupancy of the property as well as a fraud alert on the door,” Winfree-givens shared.

Winfree-givens not only had to move out but when she called to get her money back it was all gone.

“That is some really sick thing that you would do, especially with the housing market being so bad and people not having the opportunity like I was blessed to be able to put up the funds to rent the home, but some people are not even as blessed as I was and just to hear someone can do this is just so heart breaking,” Winfree-givens said.

While Winfree-givens has been working to bounce back from losing thousands she and police have been warning people to look out for red flags.

In a different incident, a woman saw a home for rent on Facebook on Sunray Drive and the victim sent, who she thought was her landlord, a payment through Walmart money transfer for rent and other fees on four separate occasions totaling $4,140.

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” Vajcner said. “Before you send money to a landlord, do your homework first.”

The Greater Nashville Realtors encourage renters to consider the following:

  • Always see the property in person, inside and out.
  • Search the rental address to verify it is not for sale or leased by other people
  • Do an image search on the photos to verify the property is not for sale or leased by someone else.
  • Search public records to verify you are dealing with the owner or their representative
  • Do not pay any money until you have a copy of the lease.
  • Do not give them personal financial information until you are ready to do business.

The rental scam cases remain under investigation.

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