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  • WTKR News 3

    Woman, friends move into new Norfolk home only to find out they were scammed

    By Margaret Kavanagh,


    NORFOLK, Va. — A young woman and her friends moved into a Norfolk home thinking they had rented, but they soon learned from police they were scammed.

    The WTKR News 3 Investigative Team continues to follow through on rental scams in Hampton Roads.

    While scrolling on Facebook Marketplace in late April, 19-year-old Jaden Hickman thought she had found the perfect home for her and her childhood friends to rent.


    News 3 reporter investigates after person uses her home in online rental scam

    Margaret Kavanagh 6:21 AM, Jul 24, 2023

    She said she started texting with the person she thought was the owner.

    “I was scrolling and I saw a listing for a four-bedroom house for $650 a month,” said Hickman. “He gave us the code to the lockbox. We went in the house and we viewed it. It was a beautiful home with a washer and dryer and we had everything we needed.”

    She said she thought $650 a month for rent seemed low and she asked him about it.

    “He said he was a truck driver and said, 'I’m not worried about the money. I just want somebody to take care of my home,'” said Hickman.

    Hickman said she paid the application fee, a pet deposit fee and part of the first month’s rent, which totaled about $700.

    Watch previous rental scams investigation: News 3's Margaret Kavanagh looks into rental scams after her home was illegally posted online

    Rental scam involving News 3's Investigative Reporter

    “The biggest red flag was how fast the scammer was trying to move with everything,” said Hickman.

    She said he also sent her strange text messages, including one requesting that she send him a video message thanking him for making her his tenant and saying on video that she promised to always keep his unit clean.

    Then, she said he sent another text telling her he just finished his morning prayers.

    She said he sent her a lease and receipts for payments and they moved in. However, she said two days later, they had an unexpected arrival: a contractor and a police officer.

    She said she showed the officer the lease agreement and he told her he was sorry that she had been scammed.

    She said she was devastated for her and her friends.


    How to protect yourself from fake online rentals in Hampton Roads

    Margaret Kavanagh 6:03 AM, Aug 07, 2023

    “I feel like I let them down in a sense, and it’s embarrassing,” said Hickman.

    Now, she is worried about where they are going to live. She said their childhood dream of all living together was crushed.

    “We were all going to have a home together,” said Hickman. "I’ll be able to finally... do the things that we talked about doing as children. We’ve always said we were going to live together in a community since we were kids."

    Norfolk police sent us a copy of the police report but most of it was redacted.

    WTKR News 3 called the number associated with the person Jaden says she sent money to, but no one answered.

    The property manager of the home told us they are unsure how the person was able to get the lockbox information but they have now moved to a digital lockbox for that property.

    We also reached out to Facebook Marketplace who did not respond.

    Watch previous rental scams investigation: After her home was illegally posted, News 3's Margaret Kavanagh finds another fake Hampton Roads rental

    How to protect yourself from online rental scams in Hampton Roads

    Previously, we spoke to the FBI about the prevalence of online scams.

    “In the last decade alone, you’re talking [an] exponential increase in online scams, and that’s just due to the fact that more people are online and the scams work. Individuals know that they can play upon individuals' weaknesses,” said Scott Zmudzinski Norfolk Assistant Special Agent in Charge.

    The WTKR Investigative Team has been following through on rental scam issues since last summer when someone tried to rent investigative reporter Margaret Kavanagh’s house out.

    The WTKR Investigative Team tracked the man down on the phone and confronted him. He said he owned the property and eventually hung up.

    Experts say many of the scammers are overseas. They say a red flag to look out for is if the price of the property seems too good to be true.

    They said to be wary if you are pressured to sign a lease quickly.

    They also suggest googling the property to learn information, request a tour and do research about the ownership of the land.

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    Experts also say don’t send money until you are certain you know who you are dealing with.

    It’s unclear who Hickman was communicating with, but she says this whole situation has been a tough learning experience.

    “We’re just going to save up and hopefully find a legit place and actually do it the correct way,” said Hickman.

    For more information on rental listing scams from the Federal Trade Commission, click here .

    More stories from News 3 Investigates

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