Detectives warn of multiple online rental scams - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Detectives warn of multiple online rental scams

Online scammers on the Treasure Coast are stepping up their game to steal your money, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives want to warn residents about what they’re calling a new twist on an old Craigslist scam in the county.

Thieves trick potential home renters into thinking they’re paying to move into a new home, but getting left at the curb empty handed.

“They’re getting very smart and more intricate ,“ said Lt. Brian Hester.

Hester said in the past, online scammers would post fake listings for fake properties.

Now, he says, they’re copying information from real listings, re-posting it, and looking to collect someone’s first, last and security deposit.

“They can be homes that are actually occupied and people are living in. They can be homes that are for sale and are vacant,” Hester said.

In at least one case, Hester says scammers broke into a home, changed the locks, and as a result, they were able to give someone keys to the home.

“Someone broke in, changed the locks, got key for it, and rented it out,” Hester said.

He says they’ve received at least six reports this summer from people losing money to the scammers.

The scammers also look up the real homeowner’s name from the property appraiser, and use it when they communicate to the people they’re trying to rip off.

It happened at a home across the street from Jason Oakley in Fort Pierce.

The resident said one afternoon, he saw unusual activity at a house listed for sale across the street.

Multiple people in different cars arrived to the house to look at it.

They all told Oakley they had seen an ad online listing the home for rent for just $630 per month.

It was truly too good to be true.

They’re in hog heaven, thinking they’re going to rent this place for $630 a month.” 

The only issue? The house is actually for sale. Oakley knew that, too. That’s when he warned the potential renters that they were being scammed.

The homeowner has also posted a sign on the door warning anyone else that might show up to see the home after finding a fraudulent ad.

Detectives say the biggest red flag was some of the scammers was asking the renters to pay in cash or gift cards.

“Don’t deal in cash, don’t deal in gift cards. Those are sure signs that this is a scam,” Hester said.

He also recommends people use a licensed professional for any house hunt.

No arrests have been made.

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