Grace* was searching for an apartment for herself, her daughter and her grandson. She was thrilled to find what she believed was the perfect apartment on Craigslist. Grace called the listing person’s phone number and she spoke with Mr. Smith who told her he was away on a business trip. They agreed upon a future date to meet to view the apartment. On the agreed upon date, Mr. Smith called Grace to let her know that his trip had been extended and therefore he would not be available to show her the apartment. However, he provided Grace with a keypad code to enter the apartment.
After she decided to lease the apartment, Mr. Smith sent Grace a lease agreement via e-mail, with wiring instructions to deposit the first month’s rent and security deposit. Grace signed the lease and wired the money. Five days after moving into the apartment, the property manager came to Grace’s door to ask what she was doing there. The property manager told Grace that she was trespassing on the property, that the lease was fraudulent, and that the person who provided the fraudulent lease was unknown to the apartment’s true owner.
Grace attempted several times to contact the scammer – Mr. Smith – via telephone and by e-mail without success. She reported the scam and the theft of her money to the local police department.
Ultimately, the owner of the apartment filed an unlawful detainer action against Grace. Legal Aid attorneys were able to negotiate with the landlord to dismiss the lawsuit and to allow Grace to remain in the apartment until the end of the month. Grace is now living with her sister until she is able to find another apartment. Unfortunately, the police have been unable to find this scammer.
The Legal Aid attorneys who assisted Grace are funded by a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant program.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.
This project was supported by Award No.VOCA-2018-Legal Aid Service of Brow-00550 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs. Sponsored by Legal Aid Service of Broward County and the State of Florida.