BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A woman who responded to an ad listing a house for rent on Craigslist lost hundreds of dollars.
Shemika Ceasar says she got conned into paying $650 to rent a house that someone else is now living in. Ceasar and her mom responded to a posting on Craigslist and met the landlord imposter, named "David," and two other people, presumably tenants.
"He said whoever comes up with their rent money first, they've got the house," Ceasar recalled. "So he said, 'Oh, I'm putting them out, I'm putting them out, I'm putting in a brand new refrigerator and stove, washer and dryer, and a pool in the backyard.'"
Ceasar was convinced and paid the $650 deposit in cash. "David" scribbled out a receipt and she hasn't heard from him since.
Ceasar and her mom, Sabrina Fuller, checked out the house later and found a different couple, who don't seem to be involved in the scam. Ceasar and Fuller called Buffalo police, and even knocked on a neighbor's door.
"She says the one guy that owned it, he died, and when he died his brother took over. His brother stayed there for a while, but once he was staying there, it brought back too many memories. He moved out, and he died," Fuller said.
For Ceasar, a mother of five, it's a big setback.
"I have children, I don't just have $650 just to give away because it is like I just gave it away to somebody," she said.
Housing officials are seeing a lot more of these scams. Karen Hausknecht-Yetman is a manager at Belmont Housing Resources and says one of the first rules is to never pay with cash.
"Get a money order if you don't have a checking or savings account. Or if you can use a check, make sure there is some sort of tracking there," she said.
Belmont Housing can also help renters identify legitimate owners and their properties.
Hausknecht-Yetman said, "We can help them find housing. We have a whole entire room just dedicated to rental housing. We can help them find some different things, and we can check out landlords to make sure it is a good place."
Ceasar did eventually find a house to rent, but this time cleared it through the Department of Social Services. News 4 did confirm the owner of the house she was previously trying to rent died nearly three years ago.
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