Investigators with the Lee County Sheriff's Office Fraud Line said they have recently received a phone call from a local homeowner who discovered the home she has for sale is also being advertised for rent online by a scammer looking to make a quick buck.
The caller, who lives in the home she is selling, told law enforcement officials that strangers have been on her property, walking around the home and looking in the windows on at least three different occasions.
The property owner reported that all three visitors said they were responding to an ad placed on two housing and vacation rental websites. When the victim checked the websites she saw that her home had indeed been listed for rent, investigators said.
She made contact with the scammer via e-mail pretending to be interested in the property and received a quick response with instructions to fill out a rental application and to "drive pass and view the house, look through the windows and check around the back."
The e-mail was written in broken English and displayed many red flags, investigators said.
The Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Unit encourages residents to remember the following:
Always keep your doors and windows locked.
Beware of a rental deal online that sounds to good too be true.
Homes that are legitimately for sale and are posted on Realtor websites with pictures and descriptive information can be copied and pasted to another site. Check out the authenticity of the ad either by contacting a local Realtor, requesting to speak by phone or meet the person renting the property at the rental location. (If possible, never go alone).
Do not wire money in exchange for a key or to "hold" the property.
Be careful about filling out "applications" given to you by strangers; you may be giving personal information to an identity thief.
You can verify the owner of the home by checking with the Lee County Property Appraiser's Office at www.leepa.org.
To report fraudulent "non-emergency" information, contact the Lee County Sheriff's Office Fraud Line at (239) 477-1242. To arrange for someone to come out to your community to talk about this or another safety or security topic contact the Lee County Sheriff's Office, Community Relations Section at 239-477-1400.