A Nashville woman is out more than $2,000 after she was conned into renting a home someone else was already moving into.

Crystal Sparks thought she found the perfect home to rent in The Nations on Craigslist.

“I called the phone number and a man picked up, and we set a time to see it for the next day,” Sparks said. “When I showed up they had the keys they let me in the house, it was completely empty, move-in ready.”

After a walk-through with two people who went by, Mike and Sarah Smith, Sparks said she filled out a rental application, paid $2,500 for the first month’s rent and security deposit and was given the keys.

“It just seemed completely normal,” Sparks said.

Everything seemed normal until Sparks went to the home the next day to show her sister.

“We opened the door and hit smack into somebody else’s U-Haul boxes,” Sparks said. “Of course, I immediately started calling the phone number, that I knew the man was not going to answer.”

Sparks acted to try and protect the personal information she also handed over to the scammers.

“When you fill out a rental application, they get your social, they get a copy of your driver’s license, they have my current address, they have all my information,” Sparks said. “My next panic mode was call my bank, call the credit bureau.”

Looking back Sparks said the quick rental transaction should have been a red flag.

“They seemed very eager to get it done right then and there,” Sparks said. “I was just so excited about what seemed to be the perfect house that I just panicked and went with it.”

Sparks said she filled out a police report with the home’s real owner that she got in contact with through the actual renters.

“The actual owner was just completely distraught, she couldn’t imagine who had these keys,” Sparks said. “She said it looked exactly like the ad she had posted.”

To try to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a rental scam, experts recommend verifying the person claiming to be the owner or the landlord through city records or a building manager. If possible, don’t pay in cash and try to use a credit card. Also, try to avoid people advertising that they don’t do background checks or credit check screenings.

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Brittany Weiner joined the News4 team as a reporter in July 2018.

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