Rental scam targets evicted family in Lexington

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (LEX 18) – After spending more than $800, a Lexington family says they are now homeless after falling for a rent scam.

On Wednesday, Bobby Norris Jr. and his family waited in the living room of their apartment for a police officer to kick them out.

They were served with an eviction notice two weeks earlier after falling behind on their rent.

“I’ve never been in this situation in my life,” Norris said. “The economy is terrible at the moment. Grocery and gas prices, rent. The cost of living is extremely high.”

Out of desperation, he says, they turned to a Facebook ad for a rental in their price range.

Text messages show conversations between Norris and the person who said they had a seat available. They even confirmed that the utilities were on at the house.

“I said ‘when can we meet to get the key,’ and we were supposed to meet up the next day,” Norris said.

Norris sent $875 for rent and $60 for a registration fee through online banking company Chime, but that person never showed up.

“I realize I’ve been cheated out of all my money,” Norris said.

The address he was told would be his home is actually being sold.

LEX 18 spoke to the property’s real estate agent off camera, who said it wasn’t the first time such a scam had happened in the city.

Kelly Nisbet is President of Bluegrass Realtors, an association with over 4,000 members in 30 counties in Kentucky. She says this type of rental fraud regularly affects real people.

“It’s not just the consumer – the victim – who is affected by the scams… It’s the agent working for their client trying to lease a property. It’s the homeowners who have rental properties that are trying to rent them out. ‘ Nibet said. “It affects us all negatively.”

Nisbet says there were several red flags in this situation for people to watch out for.

“Under no circumstances should you try to transfer money without seeing the property and meeting someone in person. Check with a real estate agent or a rental expert to make sure it’s really available and what the prices are, and probably check out accredited websites for having apartments and rentals,” Nisbet said.

Norris filed a complaint with the police, but so far there has been no word on who is responsible.

LEX 18 asked Chime if they would step in to get the family money back. They told us they would not, and a spokesman sent this statement:

“Chime takes its responsibility to protect its members seriously. We provide information and resources on a variety of types of financial fraud to educate our members, and it is unfortunate when they occur. As with all person-to-person (P2P) transfers, they are instantaneous and typically cannot be canceled once payment has been willingly initiated by the member. We recognize how damaging scammers can be and our member services team is on hand 24/7 to help with any additional questions members may have,” wrote a Chime spokesperson.

While it may be too late for him and his family now that they are homeless, Norris says this should serve as a warning to others.

“If this story helps someone else get scammed, I want that to happen,” he said.

Before renting a property, Attorney General Cameron urges Kentucky residents to follow these tips:

  • Visit the property before posting a deposit or signing a lease. If a rental is not available for an in-person inspection, do not rent the property. Also, be sure to look at a rental property before paying a deposit or signing a lease.
  • Watch out for odd payment requests. Avoid dealing with companies or individuals that require payments via wire transfer, gift cards, online payment platforms (like PayPal), or peer-to-peer payment apps (like Cash App or Venmo).
  • Research the owner and listing. Search online to ensure the property is available for rent and confirm that the company and contact information matches the rental advertisement posted on other platforms.
  • Watch out for bad grammar. Beware of poorly written rental descriptions that contain misspellings.
  • Work with well-known companies. Avoid renting from companies or individuals who cannot reach you by phone during regular business hours, or ask them to communicate exclusively via text messages. Visit the Better Business Bureau’s website for information about a company’s reputation.

To report fraud, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or fill out our online Fraud Complaint Form.

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