Woman’s Cross-Country Move Turns Out to Be Massive Scam

(BrightPress.org) – Last December, Lisa Jones from Knoxville, Tennessee, decided to start fresh in Milwaukee. She used to live there during college before graduating in 1998. Browsing apartments just for fun, she found what seemed like the perfect listing.

The Craigslist post described the bottom floor of a house in Riverwest. It was furnished, affordable, and had a real person, not a company, as the landlord. Even better, the lease was month-to-month.

Jones was excited. She didn’t want to get locked into a lease for a whole year. Especially if she didn’t like it. The listing was just going to be between her and the landlord. The listing had the property address and interior photos. The landlord, named Paul Schwartz, even sent her a photo of his ID for verification. The Wisconsin license on his ID didn’t seem to match, but he explained it away, saying it was where he lived part-time. Despite initial skepticism, Jones convinced herself it was just paranoia.

She regrets not trusting her gut. After sending a $600 security deposit and driving ten hours to Milwaukee, she discovered the property was never owned by the person she had been communicating with.

Jones isn’t the only victim. Public Investigator found that at least six others in Florida, Nevada, and Washington D.C. were scammed by someone posing as a landlord named “Paul Schwartz.” Reports came from Fort Lauderdale in 2020, four from Reno between late 2020 and mid-2021, and one from D.C. in 2019. Victims believed they found legitimate apartment listings on Craigslist, only to realize they were duped after sending money for security deposits or the first month’s rent.

Police in Fort Lauderdale and Reno confirmed that the real Paul Schwartz isn’t behind the scam. The culprit uses his ID to hide their own identity. Schwartz declined to comment. Tracing fake phone numbers, email accounts, and money transfer apps has made finding a suspect difficult. Reno police records show the scammer’s Zelle transactions were immediately converted to cryptocurrency, which is “difficult to trace.”

Jones has been living out of her car for over a month. Emotionally and financially, recovery has been tough. It has been hard for her to let it go. This whole ordeal has made her entirely weary.

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