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Woman swindled out of $4,200 in apparent Antelope rental scam | #phishing | #scams | #hacking | #aihp

A Grass Valley family thought they were paying for a new rental home but later learned the person they paid didn’t own the home.

ANTELOPE, Calif. — A 58-year-old widow who cares for her 91-year-old mother says someone stole thousands of dollars from her in a rental scam.

Claudia Sharp is a sales professional who has worked with the same Loomis-based company for nearly 30 years. She began looking for a new rental home after her long-time rental home in Grass Valley was sold to a new owner and she was told she would need to leave, Sharp said.

Sharp looked all over the area, but was seeking a single level three bedroom to accommodate her elderly mother who has trouble walking, Sharp said.

She eventually came upon an online rental listing and began speaking with a man who identified himself as David Clark, a name she now believes is made-up. He told her he owned a home in Antelope that was in her price range.

Despite numerous cancellations to tour the property, Sharp said she was desperate to find a home in her price range and jumped at the opportunity. She spoke with the man on the phone and by text for several days, Sharp said.

“It was the first month’s rent, the deposit, and a bunch of other miscellaneous HOA fees is what he said,” Sharp said.

She paid more than $4,200 in rent, deposit, and HOA-related fees that were asked by the man through the online money transfer service Zelle. She was later sent a rental agreement and receipt.

However, when it came to move-in day on June 3, the man didn’t show up to give her the key. Sharp said she was concerned but moved in any way since she paid and was given a lease.

“In the back of my mind, I certainly felt like there were some red flags,” she said before breaking into tears.

Three days later a couple knocked at the door asking to tour the rental. That’s when she realized she had been scammed, Sharp said.

“It’s just horrible that somebody could actually sleep at night knowing that they’re doing this to people,” Sharp said. “Took everything I had, everything I had.”

She has since contacted the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department to report fraud. She has also contacted the property owner, Invitation Homes, who has allowed her to stay in the home while she applies to rent it.

“We are always frustrated to discover that one of our homes has been used for these types of scams, which can have a devastating effect on the victims. Our goal, as always, is to offer quality homes and ensure our residents have great experiences,” an Invitation Homes spokesperson said in a statement. “Our advice on fraud prevention includes watching out for eager requests for cash or wire payments with an emotional plea, abnormally high-security deposits, and no required background checks.”

Officials with the company say they encourage customers to contact the company directly through their website.

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