An elaborate short-term rental scheme in Carlsbad tricked a young renter and property owner into losing thousands, according to the victims.
The victims, property owner Nick Foster and renter Courtney Hulla, told NBC 7 the scammer used both Airbnb and Craigslist to carry out the scheme.
On Saturday, Hulla found a Carlsbad condo available to rent on Craigslist, or so she thought.
"$650 deposit, $650 rent. We were like it's a nice area. That seems too good to be true," said Hulla.
She contacted a man named David, who told her he was the owner of a rental near the Carlsbad Village. He even invited her to the condo, Hulla told NBC 7.
NBC 7 is not publishing the alleged scammer’s last name because he has not been charged with any crime at this point in time.
"Walked up to the place and checked it out. He was doing laundry at the time," said Hulla. “He said ‘Check out the place,' you know, 'You can walk around. I’m packing stuff up and leaving for Chicago on Thursday. This person bailed. Let me know if you like it. We can start moving forward.’
Hulla met David in person twice and said the man shared details about his life, his work and even signed a lease agreement with her.
She paid him one month’s rent and a deposit, as agreed, totaling $1,300. He gave her a set of keys.
"There’s no way this guy’s trying to do anything, scam me. He’s being too real about it,” said Hulla.
Hulla still felt uneasy, so she went to test out the keys at the condo. She noticed a light on inside and texted David, the so-called owner.
"'I think that there are people, there are people in there. Can you explain that?' He was like, 'Oh they’re my aunt and uncle, just don't scare them,’" Hulla said.
Turns out that the couple had rented the place through Airbnb from the real condo owner, Nick Foster, a Carlsbad resident.
"He made the condo his own. He acted like he owned it to sell his con to someone," Foster said.
Foster told NBC 7, David, who had rented the condo through Airbnb before, also stole two portable AC units and other belongings over his two-week stay.
Both Hulla and Foster have reported the incident to the police. Foster has also contacted Airbnb.
"You have a conman on your platform and that he’s clearly done this before and he’s gonna do it again,” said Foster.
Neither has heard from David again.
Hulla was not able to cancel the payments she had made through the Facebook app and PayPal.
A City of Carlsbad spokesperson told NBC 7 they are looking into these reports of theft and fraud and are early in the investigation.
Meanwhile, Airbnb sent a statement to NBC 7 confirming it is investigating and will also support police in their investigation.