Katherine Lang of Beaufort, S.C., returned home after a 10-day vacation to make an unsettling discovery: A new family had moved into her home.
She arrived to find two dogs running around, a cat lounging on top of a washing machine, and food cooking on the stove. She heard two people talking inside the house, found them, and confronted them.
“I said ‘What are you doing in my house?’” Lang told the Beaufort Gazette. “It became clear to me what happened.”
22-year-old Tyggra Shepherd and her husband had moved into the house while Lang was away. The couple were apparent victims of a phony rental scam.
The couple had come to Beaufort from Kentucky looking for work and needed a place to stay while they tried to improve their fortunes. They had their children stay with relatives, they say, while they explored their options in Beaufort.
It was then they were taken in by a fake landlord offering Lang’s home for $850 in rent a month. “I was so crushed when I found out it was a scam,” Shepherd said. “Finding a place to live in Beaufort is hard when you need something you can afford and still raise a family adequately.”
Shepherd burst into tears when she found out the home really belonged to Lang and that they would have to move out. The couple have apparently made arrangements with Lang to stay for a time and then move out.
Lang, who is trying to sell the house, says she’ll move up her moving date to another local home.
Shepherd originally responded to an ad posted to a Beaufort Facebook group advertising the home for rent. Shepherd says she wired the scammer $1,150 based on a phony lease agreement and that she was supposed to receive a set of keys in the mail.
But they never arrived. The phony landlord, according to Shepherd, said that the delivery driver with the keys had been arrested and the truck impounded. The landlord, however, told them that the back door was unlocked and they could move in whenever they were ready.
It’s believed the fake landlord got access to the house with a spare key kept under the cover of an outdoor electrical outlet.
“They tell people to send the deposit to a certain address, and people trustingly do that,” said Susan Trogdon, a local residential and commercial property manager. “People just really have to do their research when they do anything online and find a reputable company — somebody you can verify exists.”
The Beaufort Police Department have a three-officer task force with a mission to handle rental fraud, but this case is the only recent one to be reported. Shepherd was reportedly encouraged to file a report with the FBI.
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