East Bay Family Caught in Online Housing Rental Scam

An East Bay family could soon be homeless after they got caught in a rental scam online.

But what sets this scam apart is that the alleged victim claims the scammer knew the smartlock code to the home and was letting oblivious families tour the property.

Now police in Richmond have a warning for anyone trying to find a home to rent online.

Elizabeth Fuentes, a mother of two, said she was feeling pressure to find an affordable home quickly and she knew she was competing with other families in the same boat. She admits that pressure may be the reason why she missed some red flags.

Fuentes and her family are now in desperate need of a new home.

"We did this in a hurry," she said. "Me and my husband were in a rush to move."

Their current landlord has already found another tenant to take their place. With a looming move-out deadline, the family searched Craigslist for homes to rent.

On Tuesday, she stumbled upon a too-good-to-be-true home in Richmond: three bedrooms, two bathroom for $1,750 a month.

"I never thought this was going to be fraud," Fuentes said.

Fuentes said a man named George who claimed to live in Southern California said he was the landlord.

"He was like if you want to go see it, we can give you the access code," she said.

Fuentes said when she went to tour the home, she even saw another family touring the home as well. Fuentes said she even sent the alleged homeowner a picture of her driver's license.

She was told to wire a $1,700 deposit to a bank account that belonged to a company named Global Traders LLC. Fuentes then never heard back from the alleged homeowner.

Fuentes has since filed a police report with Richmond police. What pains her the most? The scammer made out with all of her family's savings.

"It's hardworking money!" Fuentes said.

Police are investigating, but they do have some tips.

Landlords usually will meet you in person, examine your credit history and request a background check. County officials also said anyone looking to rent a house should call the county tax assessor and verify the owner of the property -- it's free.

Police also said to be wary when using Craigslist.

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