First Coast woman caught in rental scam

She is sharing her story with First Coast News to raise awareness of possible rental scams in the area.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida is such a hot housing market, First Coast News spoke with the Better Business Bureau about the risks buyers and renters face if they don’t pay close attention.

“It just worries me that other people out there, maybe they’re in a better place with credit, and maybe they have more in their bank account than I do than I do. he’ll just suck other people dry,” Desiree Chestnut said.

Chestnut has been looking for her dream home since March and when she thought she found it, it slipped out of her hands.

“I found this house that was for rent on realtor.com. It was really nice and my price range. I contacted the man on the listing,” Chestnut said.

The man offered to let her visit the house remotely and asked for a photo of her ID.

Chestnut visited the house and she loved it.

“He said well I have another person watching it if you want to take it. I’ll tell them not to come watch it and I thought yeah, I think I want it,” Chestnut said.

Pressure tactics can be a red flag to watch for another, that’s what happened next. The man said he couldn’t accept a check or money order to hold the house.

“He got a little excited about it and said we were working from home. We work from home. Again, a bit suspicious but not too suspicious. I’m a stranger, so maybe he didn’t want me to come to his house,” Chestnut said.

The alleged owner asked Chestnut to send money through Zelle, a money transfer app.

She sent over $2,000 and in doing so she asked him to provide documents and he did, which she says made her feel comfortable.

“I told him I had to call my bank because he kept saying it was wrong and I was like let me hang up with you guys and call my bank and that’s when I realized I thought it was a scam,” Chestnut said.

By then it was too late, her bank told her they couldn’t cancel the transaction because her money was already in another account.

Chestnut immediately contacted JSO but since she voluntarily gave the money, she says they told her it would be a civil matter and not a criminal one.

She also contacted the FBI. A spokesperson for the agency could not confirm whether they had opened an investigation, but encouraged victims of internet crimes to file complaints, allowing the FBI to track and connect with potential victims of scam.

Chestnut says she contacted the man to ask for a refund, which he said he would provide but never did.

“If they did this to me, who else are they doing this to? How many people have done this before me. How many people are going to do this after me that no one wants to take justice. Now that’s frustrating,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut filed a complaint with realtor.com, and they removed the property from their listings.

Chestnut also has the option to fund me if you would like to help donate to his family to help replace these funds. You can click here to donate.

About Gene Schafer

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