ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) Better Call Harry is blowing the lid off a scam targeting renters, and he's exposing the huge property management company doing little to prevent it.

The victims got access to homes through a lockbox -- wait until you find out how criminals got the codes.

The first time we called about a rental property posted to Craigslist, we knew it was a scam. For one thing, the same house is listed in five different ads. Three different scammers responded to our investigative producer Rhiannon, including a guy named "Joseph."

We asked him if he owned the property. "Yeah, I own the property," said 'Joseph.' That simply wasn't the truth. In fact, "Joseph" stole the property's listing information from American Homes For Rent, a publicly traded company that owns more than 50,000 properties.

Clarra McConnell is one of several victims who didn't suspect the scam.

"The lockbox is what made it seem legitimate, and he gave me the key," said Ciarra.

Once she got the key, the scammer emailed a phony lease. Ciarra then wired a $1,900 deposit and moved in. The next morning an American Homes For Rent employee was at her door.

"They were just like yup, nope sorry we can't do anything for you but you need to get out," she explained.

So, how are these guys getting access?

American Homes For Rent has a tab on its listings that says "Let Yourself In." If you click it, it takes you to the, a website that provides the lockbox codes to anyone for only $0.99.

For Plan B, "Joseph" sent us to another American Homes For Rent property. This time we found a fraud alter sticker on the front door. When the code he provided us with did not work, he sent us to the back entrance. Still, the code did not work.

"Joseph" was determined to get his cash, for plan C he sent us to American Homes For Rent property number three, and this time we got in.

After a self-guided tour I took over but not as Better Call Harry.

"Hey, this is Rhi's dad."

I just wanted to close the deal, not thinking we'd end up at Costco in search of something called a bitcoin ATM. Three-and-a-half hours into the call and we were finally done.

We jokingly asked, "You don't need anything from Costco do you?" "Joseph" replied, "No, I don't need anything from Costco."

We had out fun, but for the victims it's been awful., the folks who provided the lockbox codes said they are investigating the cases. American Homes won't respond at all. We had to confront a manager at an eviction hearing for another victim. That story airs Wednesday at 11 p.m.

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.