Single mother loses hundreds in South Buffalo rental scam

At least five families scammed by con artist
Posted at 1:31 PM, Aug 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-05 15:01:16-04

After trying to provide her young children with a home, a single South Buffalo mother is out hundreds of dollars after she fell for an online rental scam.

A woman named Mandy says everything seemed legitimate, she even walked through the apartment with a man she thought was the landlord of an upper South Buffalo apartment.

"He seemed nice, I came and he was trying to help me get rugs in here and paint," said Mandy. She says she was desperate to find an apartment after leaving an abusive relationship.

She found the listing on Craigslist, visited the apartment, signed a lease and paid a $550 security deposit to a man who said his name was David Harris.

When it came time to move in, Mandy couldn't get a hold of Harris by phone to get keys to her apartment. "His phone was just dead for days and days."

Mandy isn't the only one who's been scammed by Harris. 7 Eyewitness News obtained police reports from the Buffalo Police Department, detailing four other families who have fallen victim to the scam; there are two other families who have reached out to Eyewitness News and have not yet filed police reports.

These reports total at least $2,800 pocketed by Harris in false security deposits and rent payments.

Buffalo Police are currently investigating these cases.

The Better Business Bureau suggests a checklist before looking at any rental, especially online:

  • Look for listings with photos
  • Ask for an exact address instead of a general area for a listing
  • Look for listings with phone numbers instead of only email contacts
  • Search the property on the county assessor's website to see who the actual owner is
  • Check the BBB Scam Tracker for any active scams