FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Ariana Baxter and her family are scrambling for a place to live, right before the holidays.
The Cumberland County woman is the latest victim of a rental house scam.
“We were settled in here. We had a routine going. You know my children were comfortable and things like that. Now we must all uproot and figure something out,” Baxter said.
For nearly a year, they’ve been paying rent to a woman who gave the name Tiffany Lewis.
Just recently they found out she is not the owner of this Chasewater Road home, and the apparent scammer is nowhere to be found.
“The only information they have is the name of the person they are paying,” said Sgt. Mickey Locklear with Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
So far this year, this is the second rental home scam case reported in Cumberland County.
“It is happening. It is starting to happen more often,” Locklear said.
He said sometimes it is tough to track down the suspect in such cases. In this case, Baxter paid around $12,000 in rent through PayPal and cash payments.
“But if it’s paid with cash, it’s hard to really track down a person,” Locklear said.
Electronic payments can be the saving grace for these cases.
“We will have to go through the court and get subpoena records for the information,” he said.
Locklear said these rental home scams happen often with vacant foreclosed homes and homes of deployed servicemembers. He believes there are likely more victims out there.
“If there are any other victims they should come forward and report that. So, hopefully, we can track down who is doing this,” Locklear said.
Locklear said if you’re looking to rent a home, go through a rental company. Also, do your homework to determine if they’re legit. You should also check the property deed through the county to verify the owner.