The mum of three posted an ad on Gumtree seeking a rental property when a woman by the name of Natasha Barry seemingly offered her a home in Morayfield south-east Queensland.
“I just wanted a place for my kids so we could all be together again,” Ms Johnston said.
“They were stoked to be moving into the property, they were getting their own bedrooms.”
Ms Johnston said she filled out an application and was approved for the home within days.
But when a man named Andrew Tickner, claiming to be Ms Barry’s solicitor asked the family for more and more money, alarm bells were raised.
Mr Tickner informed her she needed to pay $850 to secure the property and organise an inspection.
“About 45 minutes before the meet up time, she sent us an email stating she wanted another $850 from us,” Ms Johnston said.
The Queensland mother said she borrowed money off her partner’s parents to make the payment, desperate to give her children a place to live.
After being told the keys would be delivered to her the next day, she was once again left empty handed.
“He sent me an email stating Natasha’s son passed away,” Ms Johnston said.
“They wanted another $500 because the hospital Natasha was at wasn’t going to let her go until she paid the $500.
“That’s when we clicked on that it was a scam.”
The incident is now under investigation by the police, with experts warning consumers to be weary of online scammers.
Sam Galer from the Rental Tenancies Authority said renters should always be weary before making any kind of payment.
“I think the key thing is to have confidence before you hand over any money, so having a tenancy agreement provided to you,” he said.
“Being able to ask questions about the property and the terms of the agreement and wherever possible being able to view the property.”