MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG)— A young pregnant mother is warning others after she said she fell victim to a rental scam in South Memphis.
Just two weeks shy of giving birth to her third child, Briahna Harris doesn’t have a place for her new baby boy and two young children to call home.
“It’s crazy. It’s been stressing me out,” Harris said.
Back in May, Harris found a unit for rent through Facebook at an apartment building on Lucy Avenue in South Memphis.
“I went to the unit and everything looked good. Everything was fixed except for the bathroom needed to put a wall on the shower. That was it,” she said.
From there, Harris said the landlord told her someone else was interested in the apartment, so she needed to act fast.
She said the landlord pressured her into paying on Cashapp. Almost two months later, she’s without an apartment and her money.
Cash App screenshots show Harris paid a $85 application fee and 1,325 dollars for her deposit and first month’s rent on June 4. However, she said her landlord told her six weeks later that the city is still inspecting the apartment and is refusing to pay her back.
“Every week he is giving me a different excuse and I asked him for a refund a couple of weeks ago,” Harris said. “That’s when everything escalated, and he cursed me out, hung up the phone in my face.”
Harris is now living in her mother’s living room in Southaven and to make matters worse she said the A/C unit just went out.
“I been trying to not let it stress me out so bad, but it has been,” Harris told us. “I feel like I disappointed my kids. I feel like we don’t have anywhere to stay. I been living in my mama’s living room waiting for this apartment.”
Daniel Irwin with the Better Business Bureau has been looking into Harris’ case since she filed a claim through their scam tracker last week.
“Unfortunately at this point to get her money back she’s going to have to take him to court,” Irwin said.
He said this is more of a bad landlord situation but rental scams are on the rise. Irwin is warning people to be mindful before they hand over their hard-earned money.
“I would never want to apply for anything without seeing it and without researching it with the property accessor’s office to find out who the real owner of the property is,” he said. “Anytime anybody wants you to pay with gift card, wire transfer, Bitcoin or Cash App them your deposit, that would be a big red flag.”
Harris said she does plan to take legal action.
BBB encourages all renters to follow these tips:
- Carefully research the owner and the home. Check with BBB at bbb.org or by calling 901-759-1300. Look up the owner’s name, phone number and address of the property online.
- Ask to inspect the property and review the lease before making any decisions or paying any deposits. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met.
- Check local property records to determine who owns the house. You can generally find this information by contacting the tax assessor’s office in that area.
- Watch out for deals that are too good. If the price seems much better than other nearby properties, it may be a scam.
- If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.
- • Report scams and scam attempts at bbb.org/scamtracker.
Red Flags of Rental Scams:
- A monthly rental payment below the market rate.
- A listing with grammar or punctuation mistakes.
- A landlord with a “dramatic” story. You might be told to drive by the building — but you can’t go in, because the owner is working abroad or is in a faraway place serving in the military or doing missionary work.
- A refusal to speak or video chat, communicating only by text or email.
- A request to wire money, pay via gift card or bitcoin The funds requested may be called a security deposit, move-in fee or rent
- A sense of urgency. Scammers want you to act fast and move in immediately, even if you haven’t seen the premises.