Cape Coral police are warning residents of fraudulent rental listings. Police say people use this as an opportunity to target individuals through online sites such as Zillow, Realtor.com, Facebook, and Craigslist.
Cape PD says the fraud uses legitimate photos of a property and uploads them to sites as fraudulent advertisements. The listings have been used to take advantage of victims who end up paying thousands of dollars for a rental or property that did not own.
Here are some ways to help recognize and prevent yourself from being a victim:
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s most likely a scam. For example, a property that usually rents for around $3500 a month is listed for $1,500; this is likely fraudulent.
Research the rental and determine who owns it and if it is listed on another rental website.
If it’s listed on another rental service website, it’s most likely a scam.
The scammer sometimes asks for money upfront to fill out an application before seeing the house/apartment. Only provide personal information once you are sure that it is a legit rental.
Make sure you visit the property first! Most money lost can be prevented if you see the property first. When individuals visit the property, they realize that someone is already living there or there is a sign out front listing the property for sale, not rent.
Be very cautious if the person owning the property will not meet you at the rental to show the property. More than likely, if they do not meet you or give a reason why they can’t, it’s a scam.
Scammers will ask you to send money through money transfer sites such as Zelle, Venmo, or PayPal to a different person’s name that is not their own or who owns the property on the property appraiser’s site. Scammers will state my husband, wife, or lawyer’s name when questioned on why the names don’t match. Sometimes the scammers will tell you to send money to multiple people. If they want to avoid meeting with you, DO NOT SEND MONEY THROUGH ZELLE, VENMO, OR PAYPAL.
Scammers will ask for gift cards instead of rent/application fees or security deposit.
Use a verified broker. Always use extreme caution when renting from sites like Realtor.com, Craigslist, Facebook, and Zillow.
Police say it is important to do your research. Most of these fraudulent listings can be discovered with little time and research; if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Please report fraudulent rental listings to the Cape Coral Police Department by calling (239)-574-3223.