It's that sinking feeling many have encountered, realizing you may be the victim of a scam. That's exactly what happened to a Texas Tech Education major, who now has $1,200 less in her pocket.
The person responsible could still be out there, doing this to others across Lubbock.
21-year old Katie Lucas tells us she was just trying to get her own place. She had saved for months and it seemed as if she had found the perfect South Lubbock condo online.
Now, looking back, Lucas' mother, Melinda thinks her daughter was too quick to hand over the cash.
"How can you be so naive? But she's young and that doesn't excuse someone for stealing all her money," Melinda said.
To Katie, the online ad she found seemed perfect.
"We called him and went and saw it and told him it was really pretty, so we told him we wanted it," Katie said.
The owner told Katie he needed the first month's rent and a deposit wired to him. So she did.
"The next day he sent us an email saying that was not a sufficient amount of money for him to leave the military so we needed to send another $400 and that he would reimburse us," Katie told KCBD.
Katie said she wasn't worried because she had seen the property. So another $400 bucks was sent his way and they arranged a time to pick up the keys.
"We waited 'til like ten and I figured, maybe he wasn't going to show up. A 1 a.m. he texted and said he had car trouble," Katie said.
Those excuses came two more times.
"The third time he was supposed to meet us and he never showed up, I figured my money was probably gone," Katie said.
Belinda also texted the owner acting as if she were interested in the property, and he responded, saying it was available.
Katie tells us she went to the Lubbock Police and was told it was probably an international scam. However, a simple online search revealed the man Katie had been speaking with was in fact, the property owner.
We knocked on the door of the condo. No one answered, but the lights were on. KCBD also texted and called the owner, but got no response.
Katie now realizes her hard-earned money is probably gone forever, but her mom just hopes this doesn't happen to anyone else.
"I just want justice, I want him caught," Melinda said.
Lubbock police tell KCBD that no arrests have been made, but that they are investigating.
The Better Business Bureau offers these tips:
• Always meet in person and deal with local people. If they are "out of town" and not able to ever meet up, be cautious.
• Never under any circumstances, wire money at the request of any prospective "landlord" via Western Union, Money Gram or any other wire service. Even if they tell you to wire the funds to a friend or relative's name "to be safe," it's a trap!
• Never give out personal financial information (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
• If he deal sounds too good to be true, be cautious. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
• Do not rent housing without seeing the interior. In all likelihood, that housing unit is not actually for rent.
• Do not submit to credit checks or background checks for a job or for housing until you have met the interviewer or landlord/agent in person
• Always check bbb.org to see if the "company" has any complaints.
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