CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A rental scam came close to leaving two people in Cape Coral out of potentially thousands of dollars. Scammers are claiming to own a home and renting it out for cheap.
Meredith Kendall has been looking for a home to rent for a while and is on realtor.com nearly every day. She found a home in Cape Coral and the listing price was $1,500, so she called the number on the listing.
“When I called I said are you kidding me? It’s only $1,500, they said yup and I said alright,” Kendall said.
Kendall said she vetted the company on the other end and found tax records. The alleged company then gave her contact information to someone else. A man called her and claimed to be the homeowner.
“He said you could come and look at it immediately,” Kendall said. “Then I called him and it was a Google voice.”
She said she felt something was off, but decided to go look.
“I saw a rental sign and said, ok great. There’s a rental sign in there,” Kendall explained. “Didn’t even dawn on me that the name of the rental was not the name of the person I talked to.”
The “for lease” sign belonged to Main Street Renewal. We called the company and they said the property is run by them and it’s actually for rent for $3,095.
The company added that they get calls about scams like this every day.
Kendall says the man told her to follow a link he sent her and to enter quite a bit of information so she could go inside.
“And that’s when it popped up that it was actually a $3,000 rental, not a $1,500,” she said. “Here I am at a house that I almost walked into that I have no right to walk into because this guy said he was going to give me a link to a house. It scared me actually.”
Kendall had a gut feeling something was off because of not only the sign but a “fraud warning” flyer on the window.
“My thing was I don’t want to walk in this house. I have no clue what’s on the other side of that door number one or if it’s actually vacant,” she said. “It was a whirlwind.”
While we were out at the home, a woman and her step-dad showed up to look at the house.
“We just drove an hour to get here and I had to take off work,” said Heather Woody.
Her experience echoed Kendall’s: she saw the post online, got a phone call, and said she could look at the house.
“The response was so quick and I looked at a few other places in the past few weeks and you never get a response that quickly,” Woody said. “I reached out to him specifically saying I need proof, I feel uneasy about it.”
We also called the man, claiming to own the property. During the phone call, the man claimed to own the property, then said it was through another company and then claiming to have his own.
When we asked for proof of ownership and questioned him about the scam, he hung up two different times.
“It’s put me back a couple of steps when I’m just trying to move forward,” Woody said.
Though both Woody and Kendall are back to square one in their search for a home, they are thankful they didn’t lose any money.
“We are working hard for every dollar we earn,” Kendall said.
We reached out to realtor.com about the listing. A spokesperson said after our e-mail, they flagged the listing and took it down.
Rental scams are a common problem impacting the entire industry and unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to prevent them entirely. Know that Realtor.com is committed to combating fraud found on our site, and if a rental listing is suspected or found to be fraudulent, it is immediately flagged or removed from the site, which is what is happening in this case.
When it comes to avoiding scams like this, the Federal Trade Commission has a list of tips so you do not become a victim. You can also report the scam to law enforcement and the FTC.
Either way, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.