By Gitzel Puente. CREATED Feb 21, 2014
DESERT HOT SPRINGS - Homeowner Francis Poole noticed something different last week when she picked up the mail at her home on Cactus Drive.
"My doors were locked when I went to check up on my property, and if it wasn't for the post office, I wouldn't have suspected that someone was living there illegally," said Poole.
Her home has been vacant for two months as it goes into foreclosure. She claimed that someone took advantage of the situation and started living there without her consent.
"They did all this fraudulent stuff in my name, a rental agreement with my forged name on it, so they knew my name," said Poole, adding that she met with the woman who's living in her home but received no real answers.
She then contacted the Desert Hot Springs Police for further action, but we still have yet to hear from them.
It appears that someone is indeed living in Poole's place due to a car parked on the driveway and children's toys strewn on the front yard.
When we knocked on the door Friday morning; however, no one answered, but we did hear a barking dog inside the house.
According to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, these types of situations are part of bigger criminal matters...rental scams.
A deputy said that in most cases, the people living inside vacant homes are victims too, often tricked by fake property managers to rent the home.
"After talking to her, I thought she might be a victim, but I've decided that she's just a good actress because she's lied to me too many times. She had every opportunity to help me," said Poole.
She said her main concern is the utility companies turning on services for the person living inside.
While the electricity is turned on, Poole said that the gas company rejected the "renter's" request for utilities, and the water was turned off Friday morning after the company investigated the situation and verified the owner's identity and documentation.
Poole said that unfortunately this happened to her home because it was vacant for so long.
"I would remind anyone who's left their house to keep on checking up on it and make sure that they don't have this happen to them," said Poole.
If something similar has happened to you or someone you know, the sheriff's department advises you to call your local police department. They'll try to determine if there's any fraudulent activity, and if so, they'll start an investigation.
Sometimes, the District Attorney's office will also get involved when it comes to rental scams.