Local woman falls victim to housing rental scam - Tucson News Now

Local woman falls victim to housing rental scam

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A Tucson woman, looking for a home to rent for her elderly father, just fell victim to a rental scam circulating southern Arizona. 
 
“I felt horrible. I felt like the worst daughter because I let somebody take his money,” Dawn Helms said. 
 
Helms had good intentions as she was searching the internet for a home to rent for her father. A three bedroom, two bath home on Oak Park Drive posted on Craigslist, caught her eye. She sent an email with her interest and got a response from the man who said he was the home owner.
 
“We will be away 3 to 5 years or more that is why I have made up my mind to put my house up for rent. My initial plan was to sell the house, but it was not successful because the realtor raised the price which made it difficult for me to sell before leaving the states,” the man wrote in an email to Helms. He went on to tell Helms that he and his wife just left for Malaysia to do mission work to help people with HIV. He also included this website of his work: www.unaids.org.
 
“Sent me a website and everything. I verified it. I was like okay, it looked 100 percent legit,” Helms said.
 
She filled out the tenant forms. The man then told her he would send her the house key through FedEx and provided her with a tracking number. Helms was instructed to send him a money gram for $1,600 for the first month’s rent and the deposit. So she did. But when the man asked for more money, Helms got a sinking feeling in her stomach. 
 
“When he said send me $430 for customs and insurance on the key. I was like no way. You’re a sucker. I want my money. Give me my money back,” Helms said. 
 
But it was too late – her money was gone.

Tucson News Now spoke to the realtor of the home on Oak Park Drive, who was shocked to learn a scammer was using his listing fraudulently. Then another twist, the scammer was using his wife’s name. Understandable the realtor did not want to go on camera. We also spoke to local realtor, Alexander Prewitt with Property Partners who said if you’re looking to buy or rent a home, go see the property in person.
 
“We can take you in there. Give you our opinion. Verify that it is in fact a real deal. You’re not going to get taken advantage of,” Prewitt said.
 
As for Helms she is still scrambling to find a place for her dad before their current lease runs out in two weeks. She’s filed a complaint with the FBI and is hoping others will learn from her mistake.
 
“I’m hoping nobody else has to go through this. That’s all I want,” Helms said. 

Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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