Durham mom thought she found dream rental home on Zillow. She was scammed out of hundreds

Friday, October 11, 2019
Durham mom thought she found dream rental home on Zillow. She was scammed out of hundreds
Durham mom thought she found dream rental home on Zillow. She was scammed out of hundreds

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Angela Nunn thought she found her dream rental home using the website Zillow.

A three-bedroom, $200,000 house in North Durham. The rent just $1,085.

"I was excited! I was like, 'Oh my God that was easy,'" Angela said. "It had a beautiful porch on the back. A huge master bedroom with a walk-in closet. It was perfect."

It was too good to be true.

Back in July, the mother of four was looking for something affordable on the real-estate site.

A couple of days later, Angela said a man contacted her offering to rent her a home.

Via text, she says he gave her a code through an online lockbox company to access the home and emailed her a lease agreement.

But the catch was that Angela was told to immediately deposit her first month's rent and security deposit into his bank account.

"I withdrew $1,135," she said.

Later that afternoon, Angela learned from a third party vendor working with Zillow that the home was part of a rental scam.

Angela, a Durham school teacher battling breast cancer, was devastated.

"Why else would he have the correct code to get in if it wasn't on the up and up?" she asked.

In 2016, Troubleshooter Diane Wilson showed how easy it is to get access to a home.

Sites like Rently only charge 99 cents for prospective buyers and renters to access up to 20 listed homes.

That leaves the door open for scammers to trick you out of your money.

Corporal Mark Miller leads the Financial Crimes Investigative unit at the Durham Police Department and says they are reviewing five cases similar to Angela's involving the same scammer.

"We're basically trying to track the money and see where the money went and hopefully that connects to the right suspect," Miller said.

Police say it is difficult to track suspects because scammers use different names and often transfer money out of fraud accounts.

Experts suggest to always use a check and sign the lease in front of the person.

ABC11 reached out to Zillow for a response on how it monitors these schemes.

In a statement, a Zillow spokesperson said: "Zillow goes to great lengths to police activity on our site and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our customer support team monitors activity on the site in a number of different ways and if a listing is found to be fraudulent, it is immediately removed from Zillow. In addition to removing scam listings from our sites as soon as they are detected, the team is also actively screening for possible scams and fraud, preventing many fraudulent listings from getting posted. Zillow has a "Beware of scams and other internet fraud" page on the site, telling users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and other valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings."