Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter
NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Caught off guard by a convincing scam – now a Fort Worth woman and her family have been forced out of their home.
Alice Peterson says the operation that duped her family out of $1,000 was very smooth. “They knew what they were doing. They were extremely convincing.”
Last month, the Petersons saw a property that was not only listed on Craigslist, but also on real estate websites Zillow and Trulia.
The home fit all of their needs: three bedrooms, two baths, near a park and an excellent Keller ISD elementary school. The posting indicated rent would be $600 a month, with the possibility of leasing to own after one year.
“It was a wonderful home. Just perfect for us,” said Robert Peterson.
The couple contacted the supposed owner, who told the Petersons she was a traveling nurse who recently moved to Ohio and needed to lease her Fort Worth home.
The couple filled out an application. They say the woman told them the home was empty, but unlocked, and they could stop by to look around. She stayed on the phone, the Petersons said, and actually ‘walked’ them through.
Alice recalled, “You know how you know your house if you’ve lived there for a long time? This woman knew this house.”
The Peterson’s wired the woman $1,000 via MoneyGram. A few days later the keys and the garage door openers arrived in the mail. They moved in early March.
After just one weekend, though, the family heard an unexpected knock at the door. A property manager told them the home was supposed to be vacant.
Robert said the visit was shocking.”We were stunned. Shaking. [The representative] handed me the piece of paper and I was shaking like a leaf, because I didn’t know what we were going to do at that point.”
The couple had just enrolled their seven-year-old in elementary school, and was about to enroll their four-year-old in pre-school. The property manager told the Petersons the rightful owner was planning to lease the home — but for twice as much money.
As for the woman who claimed to be in Ohio, the Petersons could no longer reach her. “If we hadn’t talked to this person on the phone and been personally reassured by her… she was very convincing.”
The management company owner tells CBS 11 News, she is familiar with rental scams like this one, but has never seen someone hand over keys before. In her estimation, a scam artist broke or stole the lock box to get the keys, garage door opener, and a look inside to gain knowledge of the home.
Both the management company and the Petersons have filed reports with Fort Worth police.
On behalf of the owner, the management company has offered the Petersons $1,000 to vacate immediately. The family is on a fixed-income though, and does not know if they can find an affordable place fast enough.
A court hearing is scheduled for April to determine exactly how long the Petersons can stay in the house. They’re trying to raise moving money and get help from friends and family in the meantime.
Now the Petersons goal is to warn others. “We didn’t mean to do this. It’s not the leasing agency’s fault either. It’s whoever is doing this [scam]. That’s the issue we want to get out.”
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)