HUMBLE, Texas – A 76-year-old mother and her daughter are searching for a new place to live after they ended up renting a home that belongs to someone else. The mother-daughter duo was looking for a better place to call home and thought this rental property in Humble was a ray of light before the holidays.
However, it turned into a headache leading to more uncertain times. Kristi Martinez said it all started when she saw a home for rent online.
“It was really devastating. Like, why would you do that to somebody?” Martinez said.
She detailed a stranger’s seemingly elaborate plan, leaving her and her mother in a vulnerable situation.
“I went on Facebook, and I saw this house, and I thought it was legit,” Martinez said. “It was a spectacular house.”
Martinez said messaged the number and got in touch with whom she thought was the owner of the rental property.
“Basically he gives you like steps of doing the tour,” she said.
Through a text-only conversation, the person asked her questions including a detailed timeline of when she planned on visiting the home for a tour. She said the person texted her detailed directions to fill out an application on another app. When she was five minutes away from the rental property, the person she was in contact with sent her a link to directions that Martinez said led her to unlock the lockbox in front of the home.
It worked, Martinez said.
“It actually unlocks the lockbox,” Martinez said.
Thinking all was well, she asked a few more basic questions and then decided to rent the home.
“He asked us for $1500,” Martinez said.
She said the person claimed that it was for rent and for a deposit and said that she could move in once it was paid. So, Martinez said she wired the money from her bank account directly to the account information that the person gave her. It was the only money she had left, Martinez said.
Move-in day came, but things did not seem right, Martinez said.
“There’s no heat and there’s no hot water,” Martinez said.
So, Martinez continued to text the person who she thought had given her a legitimate lease. Martinez said the person had promised to send a worker the next day. The worker never came. Instead, she said she got a call from someone letting her know that they shouldn’t be in the home.
Police showed up at the rental property, saying Martinez and her mother were trespassing, according to Martinez. After explaining to the officers what happened and showing them the conversation she had with the person who she thought was the property owner, she said the police took down her report.
Martinez was devastated.
“I really like [the house], and I really wanted it,” Martinez said. “But, sorry, it has to go.”
Having spent her last dollar on what she thought was rent, Martinez is now having to find another place to live. She said she and her mother were able to stay through Thanksgiving. After that, she said they need to find another home. She is now warning others to be wary of what they see and pay for online.
“It’s not right to scam people, especially with their money. People work hard for that,” Martinez said.
Martinez said police and her bank are investigating.