JACKSON (WITI) -- A common rental scam cons a couple out of their dream of a new beginning, and this simple online trick seems to have no end.
Heather Bloomfield and Fletcher Marron want to move from Milwaukee to Seattle. They thought they had found the perfect rental online - instead, they were about to get duped.
"We were trying to move on a budget," Bloomfield says. "And we found this house. And it sounded great!"
Photos of the house looked spacious and affordable! So they contacted the person claiming to be the renter - calling himself David Rushing - who said he was living overseas for two years.
"He wanted to make sure that his house would be taken care of," Marron explains, "so he wanted to know more about us personally."
The couple says they developed a trusting relationship with Rushing since he was responsive to their questions and sent them official-looking paperwork. All they had to do was get the keys in exchange for a $2,000 deposit.
"...When you're trying to move on a budget, $2,000 is a lot of money," Bloomfield adds.
So they sent the cash. That's when "David Rushing" disappeared. Turns out the ad was fake, and the money was gone.
"It was for rent but it was through somebody else," Bloomfield says. "It wasn't through him."
"It was devastating," adds Marron. "Because that was my savings. That was everything I had up to that point."
The actual house for rent is a small duplex that looks very different from the photos Rushing made available online. He used another home's photos to create the ad - an old online trick that still seems to work.
"You must always try to work directly with the owner or renter of that property," says Ran Hoth with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, "not strictly online. And deal with the in person so you understand who you're dealing with."
Bloomfield and Marron filed a police report, but they're told "David Rushing" is probably not the person's real name, and getting the bank to investigate further likely won't happen.
Whether you're moving across country or down the block, try to work with the seller or renter personally - try to meet that individual and see the property in person.
How much is your peace of mind worth?