Woman says she fell for rental scam targeting Puerto Ricans

Man posed as condo owner and made off with her money

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MIAMI – Fleeing the crisis in Puerto Rico left behind by Hurricane Maria, Yarizbeth Ortiz arrived in Miami a few months ago.

“I just came with two suitcase and that was it," Ortiz said. "It was the hardest thing ever."

Ortiz quickly got a job and was couch surfing, desperately trying to find a place to live, a friend suggested she'd check out roomster.com.

"Like everything was legit," she said.

She found a listing -- a one bedroom apartment at 50 Biscayne Blvd. 

The alleged owner told her that he was in Puerto Rico.

"And I said, 'Oh, I'm from Puerto Rico too,'" Ortiz said. "We start exchanging phone calls, emails."

Ortiz said she'd already seen other units in the building, she'd seen the amenities, so she didn't want to waste any more time, and she went along.

She wired a deposit as well as first and last month's rent.

"And he disappeared," Ortiz said. "It was hard because I came here with nothing. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I came here with barely nothing and it took me a couple of months to save all that money, and it's really hard that people play with other people's things."

Officer Kenia Fallat, a spokeswoman for the Miami Police Department, said the scam that Ortiz describes is all too common in South Florida.

John Shriber, the CEO of Roomster, said the company works to keep scammers off the app.

"We are actually working hard to combat this issue, protect our users and keep scammers off our site. We block hundreds of accounts every day," Shriber said.


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