Rental scam targets evicted family in Lexington
LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After doling out more than $800, a Lexington family says they are now homeless because they fell for a rental scam.
On Wednesday, Bobby Norris Jr. and his family waited in their apartment living room for a constable to kick them out.
They were served an eviction notice two weeks earlier after falling behind on rent.
“I’ve never been in this situation before in my life,” said Norris. “The economy is horrible right now. Price of food and gas, rent. Cost of living is extremely high.”
Out of desperation, he says they turned to a Facebook ad for a rental in their price range.
Text messages show conversations back and forth between Norris and the person who said they had a place available. They even confirmed utilities were on at the home.
“I said ‘when can we meet for me to get the key’ and we were gonna meet the next day,” said Norris.
Norris sent $875 for rent and $60 for an application fee through online banking company Chime, but that person never showed.
“I’m realizing that I’ve been scammed out of all my money,” said Norris.
The address he was told would be his home is actually in the process of a sale.
LEX 18 talked to the listing agent for the property off camera who said it wasn’t the first time a scam like this has happened in the city.
Kelly Nisbet is the President of Bluegrass Realtors, an association with over 4,000 members located in 30 counties in Kentucky. She says these kinds of rental scams are impacting real people, regularly.
“It’s not just the consumer — the victim that is impacted by the scams… It’s the realtor that’s out there working for their client, trying to lease a property. It’s the homeowners that have rental property that are trying to get them leased,” said Nisbet. “It impacts us all in a negative way.”
Nisbet says there were several red flags in this situation that people should pay attention to.
“Definitely not try to wire money without looking at the property, meeting someone in person. Contact a realtor of a listing or a rental expert to help make sure that it truly is available and what the pricing is and probably go to websites that are accredited for having housing and rentals,” said Nisbet.
Norris filed a report with police, but so far, there’s been no word on who’s responsible.
LEX 18 asked Chime if they would step in to get the family’s money back. They told us they would not, and a spokesperson sent this statement:
“Chime takes the responsibility of protecting its members seriously. We provide information and resources on a variety of financial fraud types to help educate our members and it is unfortunate when these occur. As with all Person to Person (P2P) transfers, they are instant and usually cannot be canceled once the payment is willingly initiated by the member. We acknowledge how harmful scammers can be and our member services team is here 24/7 to help with any additional questions members have,” wrote a Chime spokesperson.
While it may be too late for him and his family because they are now homeless, Norris says this should be a warning for others.
“If this story helps somebody else from getting scammed, I want that to happen,” he said.
Before renting a property, Attorney General Cameron urges Kentuckians to follow these tips:
- Visit the property before paying a security deposit or signing a lease. If a rental isn’t available for an in-person walkthrough, don’t rent the property. Also, be sure to view a rental before paying a security deposit or signing a lease.
- Watch out for odd payment requests. Avoid dealing with companies or individuals who require payment through wired funds, gift cards, online payment platforms (like PayPal), or peer-to-peer payment apps (like Cash App or Venmo).
- Research the owner and listing. Search online to ensure the property is available for rent, and confirm the company and contact information matches the rental advertisement posted on other platforms.
- Watch out for poor grammar. Beware of poorly-written rental descriptions that include misspellings.
- Work with reputable companies. Avoid renting from companies or individuals who are not available by phone during regular business hours or request to communicate solely through text messages. Visit the Better Business Bureau’s website to review information regarding a company’s reputation.
To report scams, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or complete our online scam complaint form.