A California woman reportedly returned from a 10-day vacation to find complete strangers living in her new home.
Katherine Lang told The Beaufort Gazette that went to check on her newly renovated Pigeon Point home on Sunday when she made the startling discovery. She recalled seeing a dog and cat walking around the home, a washing machine running, and dishes stowed away in her cabinets.
The grandmother also recalled hearing two women speaking inside and decided to confront them.
“I said ‘What are you doing in my house?’” Lang told the newspaper.
“It became clear to me what happened.”
She said she quickly realized that the new “tenants” were victims of a renting scam.
The would-be tenant, Tyggra Shepherd, 22, told The Gazette that she and her husband had moved from Kentucky to California to explore job opportunities. While staying with a friend in Beaufort, she reportedly responded to a post in a local Facebook group by Rosie Ruggles, who was offering homes for rent.
Shepherd claimed that Ruggles was renting the three-bedroom cottage for $850 a month. She explained how she was set on moving in, as her two young children were staying with family in Kentucky until they found somewhere to live.
The mother of two claimed that she wired the scammers $1,500, as the fraudulent lease agreement instructed, and was told that the keys would be mailed. Ruggles subsequently told her that the delivery driver in possession of the keys was arrested and the truck was impounded, the newspaper reported.
Shepherd, who described the story as “very believable,” claimed that Ruggles told her that the back door would be left unlocked and she’s free to start moving in.
The would-be tenant said that the “landlord” advertised the home as furnished, describing items that Lang had placed into the new home.
Lang explained that she purchased the Pigeon Point home in October but was staying at her old home until it was sold. She said that the home was possibly being watched as renovations were being done and a key was hidden under the plastic cover of an electrical outlet.
She went to the renovated home on Sunday to ensure that the pipes didn’t freeze over following a recent cold spell. She told The Gazette that Shepherd began to cry upon realizing that she fell victim to an intricate scam.
“I was so crushed when I found out it was a scam,” Shepherd commented. “… Finding a place to live in Beaufort is hard when you need something you can afford and still raise a family adequately.”
Police responded to the Pigeon Point home and the women ultimately agreed on a date for Shepherd to move out. Lang said that officers also encouraged Shepherd to contact the FBI.
Lang and Shepherd both reached out to the scammer. Lang says the woman hung up on her after she was identified; Shepherd says the woman blocked her on social media and blocked her number.
Lang said she plans to move into her new home soon–whether or not her previous home is sold. The locksmith came on Wednesday.
[Featured Image: Katherine Lang/The Beaufort Gazette video screengrab]