Local News

Durham neighborhood bands together to warn people of rental scam

Posted October 23, 2020 6:36 p.m. EDT

— Residents of a Durham neighborhood are working to warn people looking to rent a home so they don't become victims of a scam.

The home at 805 Glendale Ave. is available for rent, but the homeowner said someone took photos from an online listing and created a separate listing on Facebook that has already cost some people money.

Sadi Alejo said she and her husband moved to Durham with their 4-year-old son from Washington, D.C., after they lost their jobs. Her husband saw the ad for the rental house on Facebook, and the post said prospective tenants couldn’t see the inside of the house because of the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

They paid an application fee, the first month's rent and a security deposit – about $1,600 total – and had their furniture outside ready to move in when neighbors told them they had been scammed.

"It’s affected us a lot because, right now, we don’t have a lot of money," Alejo said Friday. "This person doesn't have a heart at all."

Margaret Sands, who lives nearby, said she and her neighbors go out any time they see someone checking out the Glendale Avenue house to make sure they’re not about to get scammed.

"It was just really awful to see someone sitting out there thinking that they’re moving in to their new home and instead having some random neighbor come up and tell them they’re homeless now," Sands said.

She said "dozens and dozens " of people have stopped to look at the house in the past couple of months, and many don't speak English.

"We saw a lot of people coming by but just walking around the house and not going in the house," she said. "We noticed that people had some misinformation about the price of the property and who owns the property."

Winston Vickers, who owns the house and lives next door, said he's upset someone is using his property to defraud and hurt others. He also has tried to head off anyone from being victimized, putting a sign in the yard warning of a scam and providing his phone number for rental information.

"When I rented this at least three or four years ago, the same thing had happened to a couple of people," Vickers said. "The day that someone told me that is the day that I went and got this sign created."

He warned people not to give anyone money for rental property until they actually see the inside of the home or apartment.

Durham police also said that prospective tenants should make some additional checks on a rental property they're interested in and try to meet the landlord or rental agent in person. People who believe they have been scammed should call police.

Alejo said she and her family are now living with a friend of her husband until they can sort out their finances and find a new place of their own.

"Stop doing stuff like that because you don’t even know what other people are going through," she said she would like to tell the scammer.

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