ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Criminals are finding a new spin on an old scheme. They’re impersonating homeowners to steal money from people.
Sherie Richards searched online last month for a home to rent for herself, her five kids and her caretaker. The disabled single mother who is in a wheelchair says she lives on social security so money is tight. She found a home in far Northeast Albuquerque.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “The house was absolutely gorgeous.”
She found the 3,100-square-foot house for $900 a month. She thought it was a great deal.
The person who identified himself as the homeowner said he was transferred to London for several years and needed someone to look after his home.
Richards did some research. The name of the person who owned the house matched the email address of the person she corresponded with. She had no reason to doubt the deal until he said to ignore the for sale sign on the front lawn. He said he changed his mind about selling the house. Richards was also told she could only see inside house photos online. She was told in an email that she would get the keys once the contract was signed and the money was sent.
“He wanted me to Western Union him to Pennsylvania,” Richards said.
At the last minute, Richards called the Real Estate Broker, Joyce Haden, listed on the for sale sign.
“I’m calling to see about the rental you have,” Haden heard Richards tell her. “I’m like, ‘I don’t do rentals.’ “
It was all a scheme and Haden has heard about it before. So have Albuquerque Police.
The would-be crook also did some research. He created an email account with the real homeowner’s name, something that is available on many public websites.
“Kind of frightening that information is out there and it’s all over the web. If you do any type of research, you find who actually owns the property,” Haden said.
Richards say she feels lucky that she didn’t give the criminal any money.
“I feel really dumb for falling for it,” she said.
The con man was willing to take her money, knowing she was strapped for cash.
“I’m on Social Security, five kids, single mom, handicapped. And he knew all this,” Richard said. “He’s a scum.”
And since he wasn’t caught for his would-be crime, Haden and Richards suspect he’s probably off trying to scheme another victim.