Man duped by online ad

Scam rental listing had him wire $725

AIKEN --- A four-bedroom, two bath rental home in Crosland Park for $425 a month with utilities included seemed too good to be true.

It was.

A young man was scammed of $725 from someone who'd recreated a Craig's List item about a property owned by Lynn Marcantoni, a Greer woman who rents homes in Aiken.

Marcantoni said the man believed he was renting the home from a rental agency in the United Kingdom.

After the situation was resolved, she decided to allow the man to stay in the home for the actual rent: $625 per month.

"He's the real victim," she said Wednesday. "It was surprising to me, because I had deleted all my properties off of Craig's List six months ago. Little did I know, people were still using the listings to try to scam people."

On Jan. 14, Marcantoni found a car parked in front of the home located off of U.S. Highway 1 and lights on in the front room. She called the police. The man told her he had replied to the Internet solicitation on the home.

He mailed the $725 -- one month's rent and a $300 deposit -- to a location overseas and was told a key would be mailed to him, Marcantoni said.

"They had an elaborate plan," she said. "They told him he couldn't see the place, because their local person was in the hospital."

The renter had expected to receive the key in the mail on Jan. 9, according to the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

After waiting several days, he decided to enter the apartment through a window. He hired a locksmith to change the locks, according to the report.

"He really thought this was his place and that the key was coming," Marcantoni said. "He was coming from a cold apartment with roaches. He was desperate."

Marcantoni initially planned to force the renter to move out but said she sympathized with his situation. She conducted a quick background and financial check, and accepted rent and a deposit from the young man.

Aiken Department of Public Safety has acquired the e-mails and transaction information from the renter for an investigation, Sgt. Aaron Dowdy said. The renter has not been able to have his account refunded for the $725, according to an incident report.

Marcantoni said she would advise renters never to wire money to anyone, and always view the apartment before renting.

She said she is still concerned the scammers are using old listings for her properties, so she advises property owners to avoid the Web site.

"This whole situation was unfortunate," she said. "I got a good renter out of it, but I would just advise people to be careful if something seems to be too good to be true."