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Rip-Off Alert: Storage scammers renting, selling units they did not own

Police say the suspects would rent portable buildings from a nearby business with no intent to pay for them. Instead, they would turn around and trick others into giving them thousands. (KSNV)

We're in the middle of moving season — the busiest time to find a new home.

A complicated scheme may have hurt people looking for a way to store their items.

Police say the suspects would rent portable buildings from a nearby business with no intent to pay for them. Instead, they would turn around and trick others into giving them thousands.

There are many uses you could find for these portable buildings.

Our Sinclair sister station in Mobile, Ala., learned that Jason Ralston and his girlfriend, Katelyn Smith, used them to steal from others.

The couple are accused of a scheme that began with a fake account on a mobile app called "Offerup" under the name J.R. and then list buildings they claimed to own.

They had, in fact, leased from a real business — Premier Portable Buildings.

“They would go to the site and then make the deal,” Foley (Ala.) Police Department Chief Thurston Bullock said. “Money would be exchanged over time, and then upon time to deliver, they would not deliver. They would in fact, move the building to another location and start the process over again.”

According to police, Ralston and Smith sold the building — which would normally go for around $9,000 — at a third of the price.

And the couple never returned the leased buildings back to the original business.

“Some of the victims involved proceeded with due caution and took some measures to document who they were dealing with,” Bullock said. “Not only their vehicles but also their IDs, so when they were taken advantage of, they were at least able to provide the police with information,”

Investigators say they believe Ralston and Smith had help transporting the buildings and are looking for additional suspects.

Nearby business owners say there were obvious red flags that everyone should keep in mind.

“The people that were sucked into this ... they’re looking for something that ain’t there,” said Rick Lowell. “They’re looking for this ultimate deal. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

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