It’s happening up and down the coast of SW Florida everyday.  It’s gotten so bad it’s forcing buyers and sellers to only deal with reputable agents.  It’s practically destroying the credibility of companies like Craigslist and VRBO and yet they can’t seem to do anything about it.  It’s really Buyer Beware of Online Real Estate Scams in SW Florida!

Buyer Beware of Online Real Estate Scams in SW Florida

Last week our phone started ringing off the hook and it hasn’t stopped since.  We’ve received hundreds of calls from prospective tenants calling about a rental in Tanglewood. The good news is we have a rental listing in Tanglewood.  It’s a gorgeous 3 bedroom 2 bath home with 2 car garage and nice back yard.  It’s a bargain at $1700/mo.  The problem is people are calling on the online rental ad for $950/mo.

People are driving by and then calling us from our sign because they’re confused.  They see the online ad with no Realtor and then see a Realtor sign at the property.  It’s good that they called because the scam wants them to check out the neighborhood and view the online photos then send them money after filling out a rental questionnaire.

The emails tell customers not to contact the agent and ignore the sign as they’ve decided not to sell and they don’t have an agreement anymore.  It says Realtors tend to over-price properties and they just want to rent the home, and money isn’t important to them.  They just want a tenant to take very good care of the home.

Thus they are renting it for half its market value.  This should be a warning sign.  The other should be “Don’t contact the agent for any reason.”

They are taking photos we took and put in MLS and scraping them and posting on Craiglist and using them in follow-up emails to prospects.

What makes this so funny is this isn’t a normal listing.  Sande Ellis is the owner of this home.  We’d encourage at a minimum for people to use Lee County’s Property Appraiser’s website to verify who the owner is of any property.

The rental questionnaire they send out is also disturbing.  They ask questions like, Are you married, Do you have a pet, Do you work at night?  Once they steal your money you send them they have information about you.  This information could be used for identity theft, or worse.  They know if you work at night, have a spouse that might be at home, or a dog that might be a problem for someone breaking in.

I don’t know if they’re trying to look smart and ask pertinent questions so you’ll send them money or if they have nefarious intentions.  Either way these are not good people, and chances are they don’t even live in the US.

We reached out to law enforcement who sees this every day.  Quite often they try to get as many people as possible to send them money, all expecting to rent a deal that’s too good to be true. Judging by the hundreds of calls we’ve received most people don’t fall for this, but enough must or they wouldn’t keep running this scam.  There is no telling how many people send in money only to find out later they’ve been scammed.

If you’re looking for a nice rental home in Tanglewood, we have one.  Give us a call. 239-489-4042  We’d suggest only dealing with reputable companies whether buying or renting.  If you insist on taking your chances, make sure you’re dealing with the actual owner.  And use common sense.  If the deal appears too good to be true, it probably is.

We hope this article benefits anyone trying to buy or rent. We hate to see anyone get burned by scammers.  You can always search for homes for sale on our  SW Florida Real Estate Search Site  This is a trusted site and all the homes on this site are actually listed in the MLS.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

See previous property scam article October 2014

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By Brett Ellis

RE/MAX Realty Group – Ellis Team

Fort Myers Real Estate Agent

7910 Summerlin Lakes Dr

Fort Myers, FL 33907