Beware of Property Scams in SW Florida. 2 weeks ago our office began receiving phone calls from confused customers calling in on one of our listings. The problem is they were under the assumption the property was for rent when it is actually listed for sale.
Upon further investigation we found a Trulia listings advertising the property for rent. Our listing is also on Trulia for sale. Rental customers were interested in renting but were confused with it being for sale, so many called us.
We assured each one of them it was not for rent. They were being told the family had a change of heart and decided to rent it. We called the family to verify and they said it is not for rent and knew nothing about it. We had the ad taken off Trulia after a phone call to them.
A few days later we received more calls. One person mentioned that seller was expecting a money gram for $1,000 deposit and $800 1st month’s rent and then seller would send the keys. No lease mentioned, just keys would be Fed Ex’d when money arrived.
The prospective tenant questioned him about the For Sale sign in the yard. She was told that he was very unhappy with the team selling the home. He said the real estate company let someone move into the home and they trashed the place, so as soon as she sent the money he would take the For Sale Signs down. Luckily for her she called our office before she lost the money.
We reached out to the Lee County Sheriff’s office who is investigating. We spoke with several detectives and they say this is a growing epidemic here in SW Florida. They’ve seen many complaints from ads on Craig’s List and all over the Internet. It’s a real shame because these scam artists are virtually assuring that you must go through a reputable company to rent anything.
How is a buyer or renter to know if they’re actually dealing with the owner? Detectives tell us quite often the scam artists opens up phone numbers in the US using a service like Magic Jack, but really many are from overseas like Egypt.
According to the sheriff’s office scam artists in Lehigh Acres are selling properties they don’t own to unsuspecting buyers who think they’re getting a good deal. If the deal seems too be good to be true and there are not licensed professionals involved in the deal, you might want to investigate the deal further.
If you see a home listed for sale and for rent with different owners or companies, it bears asking further questions. Never give out personal information or fill out detailed application forms until you’re sure who you’re dealing with.
In the above case the scam artists are looking for money, but we could see unscrupulous people using your private data from a rental application for identity fraud to obtain credit in your name.
Use MLS search sites like Topagent.com to search the MLS. Using sites like VRBO, Craig’s List or Ebay is risky if you’re not dealing with the legitimate owner. If you have concerns or feel you’ve been a victim of a property scam, contact the local Sheriff’s Department and they will assist you. More importantly, take the steps beforehand to protect yourself so you don’t end up a victim.
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Fort Myers, FL 33907