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"It was one heck of a lie": Woman warns of rental scam in Aurora

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Posted at 9:23 AM, Jan 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 11:24:04-05

AURORA, Colo. — A home at the perfect price point and location felt too good to be true, and one woman discovered -- it was. She’s now warning people about the rental scam that could have left her on the streets.

For more than a month, Christina Cimino has been on the hunt for the perfect home for her family of four. And when she least expected, she stumbled upon a three-bedroom home in Aurora near Mission Viejo Park on Facebook Marketplace listed at $1,250 a month.

“They had a whole listing, specifications of the house, square footage, everything -- just like a regular ad you would see for a rental,” Cimino said.

She immediately reached out to the individual who posted the ad and he instructed her to contact the owner of the property and gave her a phone number.

Cimino contacted the man via text message and set up a day and time for her to self-tour.

“Self-guided tours are somewhat normal right now because of COVID, so I didn’t think much of it but usually you punch in the code,” Cimino said.

The home exceeded her expectations and met all of her family needs.

“When I said, 'I want to rent it,' everything started to unravel,” Cimino said.

In a text message, the person who claimed to own the property asked for $2,500 deposit. Cimino grew wary when he told her she didn’t need to fill out an application and wouldn’t get the property lease until after she made the deposit.

In a text message chain Cimino provided to Denver7, the scammer wrote, “You’re 100 % safe with me.”

Cimino felt anything but safe and did her own research. She found the same home on the Invitation Homes website, it was listed at $2,395, nearly $1,200 more than the price on Facebook.

Cimino asked the man in a text message if he was with Invitation Homes.

“He told me a story that he was the owner and that he was getting tired of how slow Invitation Homes was taking renting the house,” Cimino said.

When she asked to meet with him in person he told her he was out of town. When she tried calling him she says he told her he couldn't hear her. Their exchanges were only through text messages. Worried, Cimino decided not to give any money.

Denver7 reached out to Invitation Homes. A spokesperson with the company confirmed they own the property located at 3855 Olathe Circle. The same home Cimino toured.

The company offers self-show tours to potential renters. They just go on the website and fill out a form with their personal information. Once the background check clears they receive a one-time code to tour the home.

We reached out to the man claiming to own the home. He had a thick accent and kept repeating that he was the owner of the property but could not hear us. He hung up twice and didn’t answer our questions. We also reached out on Facebook to the man who posted the original ad. We have not heard back.

A representative with Invitation Homes says they’re aware of scams tied to their properties but declined an on-camera interview. Instead, they released a statement.

“We are always frustrated to hear about these types of scams, which can have a devastating effect on the victims. 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”

Cimino admits her younger self would have fallen for the scam. Her attention to detail and wisdom saved her from getting scammed out of thousands of dollars. She hopes her story serves as a warning to others searching for a home.

“I don’t want other people falling for this scam,” Cimino said.