DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Durham man is now homeless after he fell for a rental scam and lost thousands of dollars.
Nathaniel Williams thought he found the perfect place to call home after he toured a home for rent in Durham. He tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson he got access to the home after communicating with the person he thought was the landlord in charge of it.
"They gave me the code for the lock on the lockbox. I had to open it, so I got this key right here. I got the key from the lock box to open the front door," he said.
Once inside the home, he immediately liked it.
"Liked the whole area because it's got a fireplace inside and everything. I liked the area because it had three bedrooms, two baths and a big backyard," he said.
Williams has dozen of text messages back and forth with the person he thought was the landlord. He got a lease and was directed to pay the rent with bitcoin. Bitcoin is something Williams had no idea how to do, but he continued to get text messages walking him through how to go to a Bitcoin ATM with his security deposit and first month's rent to secure the rental. Williams even showed Wilson the text he received with a QR Code.
"It was a wallet thing called Bitcoin wallet. He gave me this, the numbers and everything on it," Williams said.
When all was said and done, Williams had sent $2,100 to secure the rental. Then, not long after sending that money, he learned it was all a scam. He was never communicating with the actual landlord or property management company.
Williams was devastated.
"It took all my bonus money, just about my whole Christmas check."
This huge financial setback for Williams means he didn't have a new place to stay, but even more troubling, he didn't have enough money left to pay for his current residence. Because of that, he was evicted and now says he is homeless.
With the current struggle to find affordable rentals, these scams continue to trick people looking for a good deal. The scammers are duplicating real rental listings and offering them at discount rates. In Williams's case, this home was offered for $950 a month, but when you see the actual rental listing online, it's nearly double that at $1,825 a month.
When it comes to this rental, there is this sign inside the home warning about fraud, and how applications are only completed on a certain website. Also, you should never pay with Bitcoin, wire money, use cash apps, gift cards or write a check to anyone other than the management company listed on the rental.
To protect your money when it comes to rentals, if you arrive at a rental and see that the property is managed by a management company, call that number and only deal directly with them.
In his case the property Williams was interested in is managed by a property management company and it does have a warning inside the home and on its website to watch out for rental scams. Williams was not dealing with that company, instead just a scammer pretending to be the landlord.
"When a case of suspected fraudulent activity or a potential scam is reported, we have a dedicated team at Progress Residential focused on researching and investigating each report. We work with impacted individuals to offer options and solutions to resolve these issues," the property management company overseeing this particular rental said.