Just days after moving into their new home, the King family said they are being forced out, all because of a scam on Craigslist.
The family moved into a house on the 5600 block of Garfield earlier this month. They said they paid $1,180 for rent and deposit to the man listed on the ad. However, on Wednesday morning, police, along with the real property manager, came knocking on the door telling them to vacate immediately.
"I'm like how in the heck are they gonna put everybody out in an hour. This whole porch was piled,” said Reggie King. "That's jacked up. He took our money man."
“He” being a man claiming to be named “Peter Mponda” from Latvia.
King said the family was desperate to move out of their previous poorly-maintained rental home, and this new home was too good of a deal to pass up. Not only was it just around the corner, but also cheaply advertised.
The Kings said they were instructed to wire money to a woman named Debra Kelly, from Ottumwa, Iowa, who "Mponda" claimed was his attorney. After the wire transfer successfully went through, the King family moved in, saying the doors were unlocked. "Mponda," who never agreed to speak on the phone, instructed the family via text message to change the locks.
Tips to avoid rental scams:
- Never wire money.
- Meet the owner in person. Scammers usually prefer to communicate via text or email.
- Request proof of ownership.
- If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often list rentals for a low price to lure victims.
"The owner of this house is actually located in Australia,” said Ashley Danner of A-1 Properties.
Danner said rental scams on Craigslist continue to be a problem.
"We try to monitor our listings on Craigslist and look for anything that could be similar or someone copying. We've actually found quite a few,” said Danner. "The big thing to look for on Craigslist is contact information. We have 'A-1 Properties.' We have our phone number. If it's a different phone number, that's a red flag."
A leasing agent in Johnson County stopped advertising on the site last year because of such frequent scams. Someone from west Africa was trying to rent out her property she had already sold.
"You can pull all the pictures. You can pull the description so it looks very nice. And advertise it as way less than what the professional company's advertised price is,” Deb Frohling of Advantage Homes LLC told 41 Action News reporter Amy Hawley in April 2015. "Unfortunately you are out of the country. Usually they use mission work as an excuse."
Regarding the Kings' scam, "Mponda" texted from a Dallas area code, which can easily be faked.
The family is legally allowed to stay in the house until November 31. The entire experience has been a hard lesson.
"Don't buy a house on Craigslist or you will be scammed. If it ain't got a sign in the yard, don't buy it,” said King.
Josh Helmuth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org