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Georgia woman says phony St. Augustine-area rental cost her $1,800

St. Johns County deputies say it was a scam

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A fake landlord rented a Georgia woman and her family their dream home in the St. Augustine area, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

It was a scam that 45-year-old Cynthia Artis said cost her $1,800.

Artis said she was wanting to move from Georgia to the St. Augustine area with her family and they found a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on Keswick Road, off of 4 Mile Road, that was listed on Craigslist.

According to an incident report, Artis said she contacted the number on the listing for more information and began talking to another woman about the house. Artis said the woman then emailed her a copy of a lease, with the terms of a $900 deposit and $900 first month's rent, and provided her Bank of America account.

Artis said she got four money orders totaling $1,800 and put them into the account. Artis said the woman also gave her the code to unlock the keybox, as well, and it worked. Artis and her family began moving into the house on Thursday night. 

"I put it on my Facebook page, you know, to show everybody (its) about time the Baker family got blessed and everything," Artis told News4Jax on Monday. "I was happy.”

But the next morning, the landlord came by the house and told the Georgia woman she had been scammed. 

"I said, 'You’re lying. No. You’re lying. Really, you are lying to me.' She said, 'No ma'am. No ma'am," Artis said. "After that, I just went bawling.”

According to the Sheriff's Office report, Artis told deputies on Friday that she went to Bank of America and canceled the money orders because they had not been cashed.

"(She) advised she is not out of $1,800 due to the money orders not being cash," the incident report reads.

But Artis told News4Jax she has since learned she was not able to cancel the money gram. 

"They took $1,800 from us. That was our last money," Artis said. "We don't have anywhere to go."

News4Jax called the accused scammer's phone number on Monday night, but no one answered. News4Jax also contacted the actual landlord of the home, which is owned by American Homes, but had not heard back as of late Monday evening. 

According to the Sheriff's Office, this rental scam has been happening across the country and can be difficult to track down. 


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