Memphis couple loses hundreds in rental scam

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Imagine thinking you’ve found the home of your dreams, only to be ripped off instead.

That’s what happened to one couple already struggling to get by with three young kids, including a premature newborn who's fighting for his life at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital after being born at just 26 weeks.

The couple – who wanted their names kept private – were looking for a bigger house to rent for their growing family, but the place they put down a deposit on was never for rent in the first place.

It all began with an ad on a local newspaper’s website. That's where the couple spotted what seemed like the perfect rental home.

"It was enough space and everything, everything that we wanted," the husband said.

They called the number in the ad and talked to a woman claiming to be the owner, Kimberly Ward.

She told them the people renting another one of her properties on Westelle St. in Raleigh were being evicted, and that they’d be able to move in soon.

"She told us, 'Don’t knock on the door because the people are still living in the home.' But she said, 'What you can do is just drive by,'" he said. "So, we drove there, and once we drove there, we loved the place. The place was beautiful."

He admits he and his wife were skeptical – the rent seemed low, the woman was asking for a lot of personal information right away, and she wanted the first month’s rent upfront before they even got a chance to see the inside of the house.

But she seemed nice and trustworthy.

"She was telling us about her daughter and her husband," the wife said. "She had things she went through in her life... She just told a whole life story."

The woman also promised to waive the security deposit, and with the couple's current lease up next month, they were desperate.

So, they decided to meet up with her, and gave her $750.

"We gave her cash," the man said.

They then planned another day to meet up with the woman at the house to check it out, but that's when she stopped responding, and calls to her went straight to voicemail.

Still, the couple showed up for that planned meeting. But they were surprised when another woman at the home said she was actually Kimberly Ward.

"She said, 'That’s me.' And I told her, I said, 'Uhhh, no you’re not. You can’t be. Because the lady we’re looking for is a middle-aged 50-year-old white lady,'" the husband said. "So, exactly like what’s going on? Like, we’re really just in shock right now."

The scammer seemed to know exactly what she was doing.

WREG checked the property records using the name she gave, Kimberly Ward, and 3248 Westelle popped right up, showing a woman named Kimberly Ward is, in fact, the owner.

WREG spoke to the real Kimberly Ward, who says she’s owned the home for 19 years, and this is the third time in recent weeks someone has shown up asking about renting her house.

WREG also called the number in the ad, which we discovered is a VOIP, a disposable internet-created number.

But we couldn’t reach anyone.

Now, this family is starting over with a newborn, and just weeks away from their current lease expiring.

"We don’t have much, we don’t have nothing," the man said. "And you put us on false hope and dreams. I mean, that really hurts. It really does."

Meanwhile, the real Kimberly Ward tells WREG she’s scared because the scammer knew details about the inside of her home, including the layout and the fact that she has hardwood floors.

Ward says she has changed her locks and plans to file a police report.

Meanwhile, the family who was scammed is still looking for a house to rent.

Experts say when looking for a rental, you should never give out personal information upfront or pay cash. And if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.