Over the past few weeks the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has received reports involving rental scams. The homes are usually listed on Craigslist and there are two ways the scam is perpetrated:
1) A scammer posing as a landlord asks the prospective renter to send money via Western Union or Moneygram in order to receive the keys to the home/condo. This money is almost impossible to track and the renter is out hundreds or thousands of dollars.
2) A scammer posing as a property owner changes the locks on a vacant house or condo and offers it as a rental. These houses are often in foreclosure or for sale. The renter (victim) pays rent and a down payment and is given the keys to the residence. Only later does the tenant discover that he or she is in the house illegally. The renter is then forced out of the house and is out hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Here are some tips to follow to avoid falling victim to the first scam:
• Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
• Never provide someone with sensitive information like your bank account number
or Social Security number.
• Avoid transactions involving individuals based in countries known for scamming, such as Nigeria or Malaysia.
• Never rent a home or condo without seeing the interior first.
• Do not submit to a background check for a home without meeting the owner in person.
Regarding the second scam, do your homework. Search the Internet for the address. If the residence is listed as being for sale or rent through a real estate or property management company, contact the company and verify that you are legally renting or buying the house.
If it is not for sale or rent through a business, go to www.collierappraiser.com and do a search for the physical address. The owner of the residence is listed. Proceed with caution, however, because the scammer may use the name that is listed. To be confident that you are dealing with the owner, attempt to contact that person through independent means.