SANTEE (KGTV) — A housing scam drained the savings of a deaf woman and her family, and officials said this scheme is getting more popular in an economy where affordable rentals are tough to find.
In the aftermath of losing her money, Sujey Dupree said she has been depressed.
“Just really disappointed,” she told Team 10 through an interpreter during an interview in Santee.
Dupree spoke to ABC 10News through an interpreter. She and her husband are both deaf.
Her family is now also homeless.
“[I’m trying] not to be mad, but a lot of depression,” she said.
Dupree is the victim of a housing scam — something she did not realize was so common online. She saved money to rent a new home.
Her family had to leave their previous place because the landlord said there were too many people who were not on the lease living there.
In June, she saw a place for rent on Facebook Marketplace and contacted the person who posted the ad.
“They gave me the address [of] where to look,” Dupree said.
The person told her there was a lock box on the Carmel Valley home for rent. When she visited, she took a tour inside.
“We went in that house and looked around,” she said. “It seemed like they weren't finished… because they were painting and stuff.”
However, she liked the home and said she paid $2,400 through CashApp and $100 through digital currency.
Desperate for a new place to live, Dupree was not aware about housing scams and trusted the person she was talking to online for several weeks. It wasn’t until early July when she noticed the red flags.
“They kept asking me for more money. I stopped July 7. That was the last time I paid anything to them,” Dupree said. “We made a report to the police department and the FBI, and they said he's probably a scammer. They suggested we blocked him.”
The FBI warns this is a popular scam and it is on the rise. According to a news release from earlier this year, “the scammer duplicates postings from legitimate real estate websites and reposts these ads, after altering them.”
The FBI reported that in 2022, more than $396 million were lost through real estate scams, which is up from the previous year. The loss is likely higher because that statistic is only from people who reported it.
Dupree lost all her savings because of this. She works full time in Santee, but it is not enough. Her family is now living in an emergency temporary shelter for now.
“It’s a bad situation for me,” Dupree said. "We have to just team together [and] pray."
The FBI warns not to wire money or send funds through online payment services to people you do not know. The agency suggests to avoid filling out applications online until you have met a property manager in person.
"It’s important for people to know these situations happen,” Dupree told Team 10 “I learned my lesson from this situation, so I just have to roll up my sleeves and avoid that kind of stuff and block people. Not use that type of avenue anymore.”
The interpreter that helped Dupree during the Team 10 interview is the founder of the organization, Signs of Silence. If you are interested in helping the family, you can contact them at this link.
A GoFundMe has also been started.