AURORA, Colo. — Two families moving to Colorado thought they had found the perfect home to rent, but it turned out to all be a scam.
"This one had unique charm to it. It had the beautiful front façade," said Sam Rumple.
When Sam came across a listing on Craigslist for a four-bed, two-and-a-half bath house on the corner of E. Saratoga Circle in Aurora, she immediately knew it was the perfect place for her family, who was moving from Las Vegas.
"I'm usually the one that usually finds where we live... prefer to go with private landlords," she said.
That private landlord claimed to be Russell Thompson with Invitation Homes, who was renting the home for $1,900 a month.
He sent the family "proof" on Invitation Homes letterhead showing he was leasing the place for his father, Charles Thompson. The Rumples said Thompson claimed he wanted to privately lease the property to keep the rent at a reasonable rate, rather than going through the Invitation Homes website.
"By the time we were done, we paid them a total of $5,700 to move in," said Phillip Rumple.
That money was sent in separate payments using Phillip's business PayPal account. The total included the application fee, deposit and first and last month's rent.
"We packed up, moved out here, got here, he gave us the code to get in and movers unloaded everything, and we're here. And three days later, another lady by the name of April shows up," said Phillip.
It turns out another woman, April Welch, signed a nearly identical lease to the Rumples. She was also moving from out of state and found the listing on Craigslist. Welch paid Thompson $800 through CashApp
An Invitation Homes spokesperson said they don't advertise on Craigslist. In a statement, the company said those interested in renting one of its properties should reach out directly through the website.
We are always frustrated to discover that one of our homes has been used for these types of scams, which can have a devastating effect on the victims. Our goal, as always, is to offer quality homes and ensure our residents have great experiences. Our advice on fraud prevention includes watching out for eager requests for cash or wire payments with an emotional plea, abnormally high security deposits, and no required background checks. These tips and more can be found at www.invitationhomes.com/fraud-prevention and in a recent blog we published on our web site [linkedin.com]. We encourage any consumer interested in renting one of our homes to contact us directly via our website at InvitationHomes.com. We also advertise on a variety of trusted home listing sites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and others (we do not advertise on Craigslist).”
Phillip said the company is giving them 10 days to move.
Both families tried reaching out to Thompson, but he stopped answering their texts and calls.
"Right now we just don't have anywhere to go," said Phillip.
Both the Rumples and Welch filed reports with the Aurora Police Department.
Editor's note: Denver7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need we can address or have a story idea for our consumer investigates team to pursue, please email us at email@example.com or or call (303) 832-7777. Find more Contact Denver7 stories here. You can also use the form below to request help from Jaclyn Allen and the Contact Denver7 Team.