Prospective renter sounds warning about Craigslist apartment scam

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - An Indianapolis woman is warning people after someone scammed her out of hundreds of dollars. It happened after the same man pretended to be the landlord for a rental property advertised online.

The victim in this case handed over almost every penny she had, hoping she had hit the jackpot for a place on Shelby Street in Indianapolis to call home sweet home.

Tammy Cleary lives on a fixed income. She barely has enough money to make it to the next month after forking out money for her monthly bills. She is doing everything possible to fight back tears about someone taking advantage of her at a dire time of need.

"I am trying not to cry. Just trying to keep the faith and not cry so much," Cleary said.

Still, Tammy is holding out hope as long as possible and praying that the man she paid rent to didn't scam her out of cash. She searched Craigslist for an apartment last week and thought she found just what she needed.

Tammy found a double for rent in the 2700 block of Shelby Street. She is already on the waiting list for a subsidized apartments through Housing and Urban Development, but she had hoped to find a place until landing a HUD location.

"I got the phone number and his name is Shawn Adams and I left a message several times. He called me back," Cleary said.

During the phone call about the Shelby Street property, the so-called landlord told Tammy she could move in right away. They met in person at a library on East Washington Street where he gave her instructions on closing the deal.

"He said to go get the cash," said Cleary. "I brought back $450. He said he would go get the keys and meet me between 4 and 4:30."

Tammy showed Eyewitness News the lease she signed which he wrote his name and number on too. She waited at the Shelby Street property for hours for him to bring the keys.

"He did not show up," she said.

Eventually, Tammy met the family who already lives in the residence she had planned on renting. They explained their landlord is a woman. They had no clue about the man she paid money to for a deposit.

A neighbor who has lived on Shelby Street for 14 years told Eyewitness News that the actual owner of the property in question lives in California. The local landlord is a woman who even confirmed that the property had been rented out earlier this year and should not be listed for rent on anyone’s website, especially Craigslist.

"The guy named Shawn Adams told me to come over here because he told me to meet him here and he would give me keys to this address," Cleary said. "She said, 'I am sorry we just moved in here.'"

Cleary admits she never got a chance to see the inside of the apartment before giving the rent money. It's something she advises others to do, even if you sign a lease which can easily be printed from the web.

Now, after losing hundreds of dollars, Tammy is warning others about handing over your money to people you meet online.

"Do not trust anybody anymore and do not go to the bank when they ask you to bring them cash back," she said.

There are security cameras at the library where Tammy met the so-called landlord. She also plans to contact Craigslist about the fake rental ad.

If you have any information that could help in this case, call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.

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