Another family has fallen prey to an alleged rental scam involving a Murrieta home.
A family of nine loaded up a U-Haul truck Monday and left Victorville behind for a five-bedroom house with a pool on Lafayette Drive in Murrieta.
"My son found this home on Craigslist, it has a pool and we thought it was awesome," said Yvonne Farfan, 42, who along with her three children, son-in-law and grandchildren were looking to make a fresh start in Murrieta in a larger home that could comfortably accommodate all of them.
But—Farfan explained in tears—they showed up Monday as had been coordinated with the believed homeowners to find they had been scammed.
The house was indeed for rent, and the homeowner was there to show it to a prospective renter.
"He was surprised we came; he was showing the house," said Farfan's son, Anthony Robles, 25, who had been the one who found the house listed for rent on Craigslist. "We found out he is not the one who did the ad on Craigslist."
Leading up to Monday, Farfan said she wired $1,200 to a person in Denver, Colo. The money was to go toward their deposit and first month's rent. Following the revelation Monday they'd been scammed, she said she had been able to contact Western Union and get some of the money returned. She also stopped payment on a $600 money order she had put in the mail.
The monthly rent was quoted as $650, they said.
"We thought it was a steal; we were excited," Robles said.
Robles works in the manufacturing industry, and Farfan collects disability pay. Her daughter collects CalWorks. Together, they bring in enough of an income to keep the family afloat month to month.
Farfan said she communicated with the Craigslist advertisers through emails and text messages.
"We were told they weren't really money hungry, they were well off, they just wanted somebody to occupy their home—a decent family to take care of it. We thought it was awesome, it was a change for me and all my kids," Farfan said.
Murrieta police were called, and arrived Monday afternoon to find the family parked near the home with all of their belongings in the U-Haul.
Detective Kelly Sik said he did not believe the incident was related to or six others reported in Murrieta believed to be tied to the same ring of suspects.
"This particular case is not at all related to the others," Sik told Patch.
Like Farfan, the family found the home listed for rent on Craigslist. That is where the similarities end, he said.
"This one is most likely run out of the country. Most of these scams are coming out of Nigeria," Sik said. "In this case the crook duplicates the Craigslist ad, the contact names and the photos because they know the house is vacant."
What is suspicious, he said, is they won't come out to the house to show it and they will only communicate through email or text.
"There are a lot of red flags one has to ignore to become a victim," Sik said. "They ask for wire transfers and cash transactions. Not only will they steal your money, they will steal your identity."
Be leery of things that sound "to good to be true," he said.
"It is sad because here you have nine people displaced and out on the street in this heat," Sik said.
Sik said the department will continue to investigate this latest incident. The others—believed to be related—have been submitted to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
Murrieta police arranged to help pay for the Farfan family's stay in a hotel room overnight, Sik told Patch.
"We are basically homeless," Farfan said, saying she was not sure where her family would end up. "Everything is in this U-Haul."