Rental Scams Ramping Up in South Florida
Property rental scams are common in South Florida and have been around for awhile, but now seem to be on the rise in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
These scams usually start with fake rental listing posts on Craigslist and real estate Sites that allow people to manually post listings, many of which are fake. Sometimes they are for non-existent properties, or omit the property address. Other times they are properties that exist, but are vacant, or were previously legitimately listed for rent.
Usually the scammers pose as the landlord or a family member of the landlord, ask for money upfront to be wired or sent via Western Union, Moneygram or a Prepaid Visa, etc. They often make excuses why they can't show the property inside - or at least not until they've received a "deposit". Once the prospective tenant sends them the money, they dissapear.
Lately, we've seen instances where the scammer pretends to be an agent or working for a broker that they randomly plucked from the Web. They set up a move-in date, take the tenant's money then disappear, leaving a phone number for a real estate company who has nothing to do with it.
When the tenant shows up to move in and no one is there to meet them, they angrily call the real estate company demanding the keys and access. Of course, the real estate office has no idea what they are talking about, but still may have to spend time and resources on the problem, especially if they had previously listed the property for rent. The tenant ends up with no place to live and a huge hole in their bank account.
These rental scammers are getting more aggressive and sophisticated all the time. As an agent, if you encounter any of these fake listings on Craigslist or other Sites, please report them. And if you are working with any prospective tenants, let them know about the perils of searching for rental properties on their own.