Rental Scam Can Ruin Your Plans

Are you planning a vacation or looking for a new place to live by searching available properties online using websites such as Craigslist or Trulia? If so, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office warns you to be vigilant in researching the legitimacy of an advertised listing before sending money, as the ad may actually be posted by a scammer posing as the property owner.

How is it possible for scammers to post fraudulent listings on these websites?  One method includes copying existing “for sale” properties, then re-posting them at bargain basement rental pricing in order to get the attention of consumers looking to find a good deal.  

The best way to avoid rental scams is to know the tactics scammers use to trick you:

  • Scammers usually ask for a deposit or first month’s rent to be sent via Western Union, Moneygram, or prepaid money card before you even see the property;
  • Scammers often use an excuse of why they cannot meet you to show you the property, such as they are out of the country on a mission trip, job opportunity, or military service;
  • Renting vacation property can be tricky. Do your research to make sure the listed property is actually available. It won’t be much of a vacation if you arrive and have no place to stay;
  • Check the address with the county property appraiser to make sure the property truly exists and that all information matches;
  • Do an online search of the property address, name of owner or real estate agency. Often times others will post a complaint or warning about the scam address;
  • If the listing is significantly less than nearby similar properties, then beware. If it seems too good to be true, the chances are it’s a scam;
  • Emails from scammers are often littered with grammatical mistakes and typos. If the email    provides too much personal information, tends to go on and on, includes a sad story or offers excuses as to why they can’t speak to you on the phone, chances are it’s a scam;
  • Do not randomly fill out an application with personal information until you have done all of the above and confirmed the property is truly for rent by the property owner;
  • Never make a deposit with cash or debit card, instead use only a credit card for these transactions. 

 If you have questions regarding online rental scams, or if you would like to report a scam or fraud, contact the Sheriff’s Office fraud line at (239) 258-3292 or by email at fraudline@sheriffleefl.org.