Increase In Scammers Using Internet To Illegally Rent Vacant Homes

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Police revealed an increase in online rental scams, despite methods on the internet to check a property's legitimacy.

Police say a house on the 54-hundred block of Tamarack Boulevard was illegally rented out, but they explain that the problem is much bigger than one incident.

A Columbus police detective says last year she had no cases, but this year, she says she is receiving at least 10 cases a month.  She says the cases that reach her desk are only the ones that have a chance at being solved.

"He said he was a contractor. And he knew many contracting terms," said a rental scam victim. The victim didn't want to reveal his identity  for fear of his own safety, but wants to warn others not to fall into the same trap.

"The rent seemed pretty appealing and I don't have a lot of money," said the victim.  He says he tried to rent a room in a house. He saw the rental on an ad he found on Craigslist.

"That was going to be my place. All my stuff was in there, including my Xbox," said the victim.

Three days later, he says he returned to the house to find signs saying the house is vacant and he's not allowed inside.

The victim says he met a man named, Carlos Lopez Junior. He says it was only after handing over $500 in cash, did he find out Lopez Jr. didn't have the right to rent the place.

Police say he's not the only one to get swindled.

"He's listing homes that he doesn't own for sale or rent," said Columbus Police Detective Jacqueline Fofana, about Lopez Jr.

Police arrested Lopez Jr. for a similar incident nearby, and now they're connecting him to at least four other rental crimes and possibly more.

"They're targeting poor people who have no resources to protect themselves," said the victim.

Detective Fofana says this type of crime is growing, and warns others to do research before becoming another victim.

"Go in and do a walk-thru. Look under the cabinets and see if there are pipes. See if the back door's kicked in. Those are things that are red flags," said Detective Fofana.

The detective says you can also check a property's legitimacy on the internet, such as on the county auditor's website.

As for Lopez Jr., Detective Fofana says he is out on bond until his indictment.

10TV tried to speak with him, but person at his listed address said he was out of state.

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