Victim hopeful Craigslist rental scammer can be caught after scammer provided bank account number

Posted at 11:07 PM, Dec 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-25 01:07:30-05

DENVER -- A woman looking to turn her luck around is now homeless and out more than $1,000.

Patty Johnson fell for a common Craigslist rental scam, but with a twist that could be a big lead in catching the scammer.

"It's just that we were hopeful, and now we don't know what we're going to do," said Johnson.

Johnson found the listing for the one bedroom, one bathroom City Park rental for $850. The person listing the property emailed that they had just transferred to a new job two months into a 12-month lease, and was looking for someone to sublet.

First, they told Johnson to only pay the first month, without a deposit. Then, after she paid the first month, they asked for portions of the deposit.

"We went four days, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, trying to tell him to give us our money back because we can't come up with the deposit, as we said," said Johnson.

She ended up sending more than $1,000.

"We had kind of already put it in our heads, if he doesn't send us the keys right away or give us the confirmation of the FedEx, then it was a scam," said Johnson. "Now we have no money for Christmas or a new place."

Johnson's had a rough string of luck. Her young son is in the hospital, she lost her last home and now she's out a new home and a good chunk of change.

On top of Johnson getting scammed, the scammer was listing a condo that was actually owned by someone else. Johnson discovered she was lied to about the condo, when she compared photos she received from the Craigslist guy to photos she found from an online search.

"I 'Googled' the address and Hot Pads or Zillow was the one that had the listing for the same unit, and the pictures were different," said Johnson. "His response back to me was that they did renovations and he apologized for not telling us sooner."

Denver7 found the actual owner of the condo, who did not know his unit number was being used to cheat other people.

"It's really crappy to hear. It's just like, kind of, a powerless feeling that someone is using your property to steal money from other people," said the condo owner.

Here's where the scam has a twist. Instead of having Johnson fill up a prepaid debit card and then read the debit card number to him over the phone, the scammer provided an account number and routing number through Bank of America. However, the name on the account is different than the name he provided in his communications.

Denver7 contacted Denver Police about this nuance. An officer plans to meet with Johnson next week.

"We had taken pretty much everything we had for the month of December to move in because in our eyes, a home was (better than) any Christmas present. Now, we don't have money for Christmas or a place to live," said Johnson.