JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It was the perfect home for Robert Taylor and his family -- larger than his apartment and near his job -- but it was not what he thought it would be.

"I got ripped off," Taylor said. 

In January, Taylor found the house at West 11th and Tyler streets listed on Craigslist for rent.

"He told us to go by and look at it because he was unable to meet us since he worked out of town," he said.

The alleged landlord claimed he was working in Mississippi, but he provided pictures and a lease.

"It all sounded legit," said Taylor.

In his due diligence, Taylor said he checked the property records and the house belongs to Mathew Thorp, the name used in all of the emails.

"The real attraction was the location and he pays all the utilities," said Taylor.

He signed the lease and wired $1200 to a Walmart in Mississippi to a Jayne Odom, not the same name in the emails.

"I did it for my family," said Taylor. "My instincts were 'don't.'"

Shortly after that, he received a text that the key to the house was sent, but it wasn't. Instead, the phony landlord told him he needed two more months rent, another $1200.

"I said 'No sir, please send my rent back.' He said 'I will,'" Taylor said.

He has yet to see a refund and has now filed a fraud complaint with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. 

"I don't want it to happen to no one else," Taylor said.

What are the signs of a rental scam?

  • Pay attention to the low price
  • The landlord can't show the property in person
  • The transaction involves a wire transfer or prepaid card
  • The landlord demands a large deposit upfront before providing the key 

On Your Side reached out to the real Mathew Thorp, who is a real estate investor. He said the property was already rented.

Thorp was surprised to learn his name and property were being used in a rental scam.

The reality is the housing rental scam can happen in any neighborhood.

Before you fall victim, do your homeowner and remember the saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true."