ORLANDO, Fla. — A local family finds themselves homeless after falling victim to a heart-wrenching rental-home scam that drained their entire savings. Action 9 captured the heart-wrenching scene as the family was forcibly evicted from the house they believed to be their new home, having paid over $7,000 to the individual posing as the owner. In a desperate race against time, the family had only minutes to gather their belongings and vacate the premises, leaving them devastated and uncertain about their future.
The scorching Florida heat intensified the urgency as Lauren Brock and her fiancé struggled to salvage what they could within the limited timeframe. The couple faced the distressing reality of being treated as criminals despite falling victim to the scam. Their anguish was evident as Brock’s fiancé expressed the injustice of their situation.
Brock’s nightmare began when she spotted a rental home in east Orlando on Facebook marketplace. It seemed like a dream come true—an ideal home at an affordable price. However, things took a turn when the person she believed to be the owner directed her to use the Rently app for a self-guided tour. The house appeared impeccable, further fueling her excitement. (wftv.com) However, the supposed owner’s insistence on payment through eBay gift cards raised suspicions, which she brushed off in favor of securing her new home. Brock signed what seemed to be a lease, moved in, and even prepaid four months’ rent, amounting to over $7,000.
The devastating truth unfolded when a deputy arrived at their door, revealing that they had no right to occupy the property. The couple’s lives were instantly upended, leaving them to face the harsh reality of homelessness. Brock, holding back tears, expressed her disbelief at being cast onto the streets.
Unbeknownst to Brock, the home they rented belonged to Progress Residential, making it clear that scammers often exploit legitimate listings and lure desperate renters with enticing offers. Jeffrey Hussey, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, urged prospective renters to remain vigilant. He warned of red flags such as significantly low rental prices, requests for large upfront payments, and an inability to meet in person.
Disturbingly, the FBI reports that real estate fraud, including rental scams, resulted in losses of nearly $400 million in 2022. For Brock, the ordeal extended beyond losing their home and savings. The con artist gained access to her bank account, completely wiping her out. Brock, overwhelmed with emotions, recounted breaking down in tears.
To compound their misfortune, the family’s trailer broke down just a few feet away as they left the property. Their dreams shattered, Brock now grapples with the uncertainty of starting over. Homelessness looms over them, and the couple wonders how they will find the means to recover.
Progress Residential, the actual owner of the property, has taken steps to prevent unauthorized access following the eviction. The company acknowledges the prevalence of rental scams and maintains a dedicated team to investigate any potential fraud related to their properties. They strive to work closely with victims to help them find a resolution in these distressing situations.
In the face of such devastating circumstances, it is crucial to report online rental scams to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center promptly. Swift action can help protect others from falling prey to similar deceit and prevent further financial and emotional devastation.