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Woman swindled out of $1,200 by fake landlord advertising on Craigslist

RICHMOND, Va. -- A local woman reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, after she said she paid hundreds of dollars to someone pretending to be the property owner of a home she thought she was renting.

“I want to move, I need my money,” Glenda Smith said as she looked at the house she thought would be her’s by April 1.

Smith said she is out $1,200 dollars, after trying to rent a Lynhaven Avenue property she found on Craigslist.

Smith said all of her communication was done via the computer, and the person she was emailing for weeks claimed to be the landlord.

After submitting an application, Smith said she deposited $1,200 dollars into a bank account as she was directed to do.  She said the agreement was that once the funds were received, the person claiming to be the landlord would overnight the keys to her, but that never happened.

“When I didn’t get the keys the next day at 4 o’clock as promised, I emailed him and he stated now I needed to send an additional $200 dollars,” Smith explained as she showed CBS 6 the emails.

Smith said at that point she could tell something was off, and she requested a refund.

“But that’s when the communication stopped.”  Smith told CBS 6 she has not heard from him since.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers tracked down the real landlord for the Lynhaven Avenue property.  In a phone conversation, he explained that he never posts ads on Craigslist, he never communicated with a Glenda Smith, and he said the email listed on Craigslist was not connected to him in any way.

The property owner even recommended Smith call the police because he said it appeared she fell victim to a scam created by someone pretending to be him.

Attorney Martin Wegbreit, Director of Litigation for Virginia Legal Aid Society, told CBS 6 he sees this type of situation on a monthly basis.

“Affordable housing, especially the decent, safe, and sanitary type is so scarce in the City of Richmond that people will do almost anything including unwise things in order to try to get the housing and that sets them up to be victims of scam artists and that appears to be what happened to this lady,” Wegbreit explained.

He says it will be difficult for someone in this situation to get their money back without having more than an email address for the person they believe to be the property owner.

“Without a physical address there is no possible way she can get any help through the civil non-criminal court system,” said Wegbreit.

He went on to say the best thing to do in this situation is contact police.

Smith told CBS 6 she is devastated to learn that she has been scammed, she is now short hundreds of dollars and has no where to move. She says the person who was suppose to be her roommate is in a similar situation.

Smith said she is currently working with police to see if there is any way to track down the person who pretended to be the property owner.