Get Gephardt investigates spike in housing scams

Dec 12, 2022, 11:22 PM | Updated: Dec 13, 2022, 4:29 pm

STANSBURY PARK, Utah — Imagine finding a place to live, touring it with your family, paying a deposit, only to learn it was all a scam.  It happened to a Tooele family, who decided it was time to Get Gephardt to investigate.

It’s going to be a lean Christmas for Amber Cheesman and her family after they were ripped off trying to find a place to live.

“We were defrauded out of $2,300,” she said. “It’s a very lot of money.”

Cheesman said it started when she saw a Stansbury Park home listed for rent online. She thought it might have been a fraud because of how affordable the place was.

“He told us the rent was $1,500 a month,” she said.

The man assured Cheesman it wasn’t a scam. He texted her pictures from inside the home. He sent a rental application. He even sent the code to a lockbox out front that allowed her to go in and tour the place.

“We put the code in, we walked in, looked around,” she said. “We were like, yeah, we like it.”

Convinced, Cheesman sent the deposit. Then, things got weird.

“We went to go get the keys from him, after we paid all this money, and he’s like, ‘Oh, well, you have to call a locksmith,’” Cheesman said.

It was in that moment that Cheesman realized she’d been scammed.

“I want my money back,” she said.

Unfortunately, that’s probably never going to happen. The way this scam works is someone, usually overseas, finds a real rental listing. They copy everything for a new listing, but use their own contact info. Then, the crook waits for the calls to roll in.

As for the lockbox code, all the crook needed to do was call the real landlord and pose as a potential renter and they would have happily shared the combo – that’s what it’s there for.

Alas, Cheesman’s story is becoming more and more common, according to data from the FBI.

Nationwide, in 2021, 11,578 people reported losing $350,328,166 due to these types of scams. That’s a 64% increase from the previous year. 2022’s numbers are not yet out, but with housing remaining expensive and tough to come by, chances are the number of victims will still continue to surge.

Scammers pay attention to the news, said David Nuti with the cyber security firm NORDVPN. And they know how to work people who are in tough situations.

“They sense blood in the water and they ramp up their activities to try and get you,” he said.

Nuti’s advice to avoid getting scammed online: slow down.

“If you just slow down a little bit as you’re going through the process, you can speed up a whole heck of a lot by avoiding hardships on the bats on the backside.”

Cheesman admits she was in a hurry because her family had been living in a place that didn’t have heat and it was getting cold.

She’s now found this place to live and said she’s hopeful her story helps others.

“It screwed us over, drastically,” she said. “I mean, we had no money to put in our gas tanks. We had no money for food for my kids. We had nothing.”

Cheesman said she is getting help from members of her church to cover the rent at her current apartment. She was facing eviction, unable to make rent, since she sent away her savings to the swindler.

A GoFundMe* page has been set up to help Cheesman’s family.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Get Gephardt investigates spike in housing scams