CAPE CORAL, Fla.- The Cape Coral Police Department wants to warn citizens to be on the lookout for a new scam that has popped up here in Southwest Florida.
Police say the scammer uses information from a real property listed on MLS (usually a home that is listed for sale, and not for rent) then puts the information in a new fabricated advertisement that he posts on another site such as Craigslist<http://craigslist.com/>, Zillow<http://www.zillow.com/>, Hotpads<http://www.hotpads.com/>, etc.
In the new advertisement, the scammer allegedly lures potential victims in with deals that sound too good to be true such as very low rent and utilities included. They then request the potential renter to wire money as a deposit before they see the property in exchange for a set of keys that will be mailed to them. The scammer uses a cover story for the reason he is out of town like being on a church mission or that he is in the military. The end result is that the victim is out their money and still needs a place to live.
Here are some tips from the Cape Coral Police Department to help you avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam:
- Never wire money to an unknown person and beware whenever asked to do this no matter how convincing the reason may be!
- Ask to meet in person to see the property and look at the contract before you send them ANY money. If they are out of state then ask them to send a local representative to meet with you.
- Be suspicious of persons only wanting to communicate through email. Also, be suspicious if the emails contain many spelling and grammatical errors. (This is common when the scammer is out of the country)
- Ask a lot of questions about the details of the property and/or contract and WAIT for the answers. In most cases when it is a scam the questions will not be answered and instead there will be a reply from the scammer that is more demanding/urgent and in which the focus is on them getting the money quickly instead of addressing the questions/concerns.
- NEVER give out your personal information such as full name, date of birth, social security number over email or the phone. The scammers will sometimes request this info saying it’s for a background check but this information can be used by the scammer to steal your identity.
- Always follow your gut feeling and if something seems suspicious do more research. Checking an address on the internet will usually provide information such as if the property is listed elsewhere.