Sioux Falls family alerting public of property rental Facebook scam
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Scammers will do just about anything to get money from you. They’ll call, they’ll email, and now, a family in Sioux Falls is alerting the public of a house rental scam on Facebook marketplace.
Kylee Ernesti and Timothy Kubik started their search for a new place to live because, unlike their apartment, a house would give their daughter space to run and play. Plus, they were hoping to get a dog again after a previous dog they owned passed away. They believe a house is more fit for a dog than an apartment. Their search led them to encounter a reasonably priced home in Sioux Falls on a Facebook listing.
“We were talking about setting up a time to view the place,” explained Ernesti. “She said it would have to be after her current tenants moved out. We eventually even saw a lease, too. Up until she started stressing urgency with paying the deposit, that’s when things seemed fishy.”
The scammer was requesting the deposit be wired to them before signing any paperwork and before even touring the house or else they threatened to rent it out to another interested family. Under the name ‘Selena West’, the scammer used real properties to make them seem legitimate. Kylee and Timothy’s mom, Shannon Kubik, went to see the house for rent and the house listed as the home of ‘Selena West’ on the fake lease after exchanges Kylee had with the scammer on Facebook got suspicious. The home supposedly for rent, was occupied by someone who owned the house. The home named on the lease was occupied by someone not named Selena West. Neither homeowner was aware their house was being used by the scammer.
What was also odd, was that despite the homework that the scammer did to research and list the house at a similar monthly rate as others in the area, the details on their initial post didn’t describe the home accurately. They said that the home had a fenced-in yard and that was not the case. To Kylee, the scam felt targeted. With the large need in the United States for affordable housing, the listing and others like it preyed on those who were in need.
“She listed her listing as ‘affordable for a small family, a couple to start out,’” said Ernesti. “I feel like she was purposely advertising for vulnerable groups of people that need those things. It sucks. It’s pretty sad that people will go to any amount of lengths to take money that these people are working really hard for. I know a lot of people are working paycheck to paycheck and just trying to make ends meet. When they think an opportunity arose and they want that opportunity so they can save money on housing. To just be scammed out of that, it’s just sad.”
“The people who are scamming other people, I don’t know what their situation is,” Kubik said. “They could be having desperate needs as well, but the people that they are scamming are people that are in the same situation or worse. They need to think about that before they do this to people.
Kylee raised awareness of the scam by posting about her experience and exchanges with the scammer on Facebook and reporting it to Facebook itself. Before the listing was taken down, Kylee had gotten blocked by the scammer’s account because she was asking questions. Kylee and Shannon are fearful that the scammer created another account.
Shannon tried to bring the scam to the Sioux Falls Police Department’s attention. They handed her a tiny slip of paper with instructions on how to make a report online. She became frustrated with the process.
“You can’t file it under theft because it wasn’t theft,” described Kubik. “You can’t file it under stolen identity because it wasn’t identity theft, either. Then you’re stuck with, what am I supposed to do? You can’t file a police report online on something like this because it would be considered filing a false police report. I tried to get ahold of the police and I got no help. They tell me to go online.”
Both Shannon and Kylee hope that the Sioux Falls Police Department make some subtle changes to the way that reports are taken so that it’s easier to report a scam or to point Sioux Falls residents to another way to report scams instead of handing out a two by one inch piece of paper. Until then, if you are at all skeptical of a rental agreement or a seller online, take time to do more research. It’s always better to be safe than to get scammed. If you wish to report a scam, another avenue is to report to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov/.
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