Coconut Grove Renters Beware Of Scams!

I just received this email from a friend of mine who is looking for a rental property in Coconut Grove. He inquired about a house on Craig’s List that said it was located on the corner of Poinciana Avenue and Main Highway, offering 800 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath for $675/month. After his inquiry, he received the below communication.

Hello,     
     Thanks for your interest and inquiries about my house. Yes the house is still available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family to occupy and maintain the house now that we are not around. Myself and my wife just traveled to National City, California for a program called SERVING IN MISSION (SIM), you can view the link for more info: (http://www.sim.org/index.php/content/our-purpose). We will be away for 3 to 4 years or more that is why I have made up my mind to put up my house for rent to whom ever that will take good care of it.  However, my initial plan was to sell the house  but it was not successful because the Realtor raised the price which made it difficult for me to sell before leaving the States so never mind if you see the for sale sign in front of the house, It has already been taken off the market as for sale so there is no need to contact any Realtor. I want you to understand that I spent a lot on my property that you have requested to rent, so I will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and would want you to treat it as your own because cleanliness they say is next to Godliness. It is not all about the money to be paid on rent or spent; it is all about a good maintenance culture which I want you to adopt on the property. I want you to keep it tidy all the time so that I would be full of smiles whenever I come and above all, a good, strong and tight relationship between us when I come for a check up. Please one more thing, I wouldn’t like to have any benefit of trust in you because I want to stand in your words that the property would be well taken care of all the time. I believe you have seen how lovely it is if from only the pictures you saw in my posting compare to the 100% comfort to be derived from it as you are an occupant.
FEATURES : Laundry, Electric Range, Electric Heat, Master Bedroom, Car Park.
AMENITIES: Air Conditioning, Cable TV, Ceiling Fans, 24 hours Internet service, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Garbage Disposal, Microwave, security alarm, Pets Friendly, Refrigerator, Washer / Dryer.
Rental Price: $675 per month and security Deposit is $675 (Security Deposit is Refundable) Utilities included in monthly rent because i have shares with the utility company so they makes sure it doesn’t go off for a minute..
Pets are Welcome.
Here is the address to the house: xxxx Poinciana Ave,Miami, FL 33133
Bedroom: 2
Bathroom: 1
Living Building Square Footage: 800
I may not be returning to the house because we plan on buying another house upon arrival. You can also call or text me +1(501)613-7085. 
SO IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED I WILL WANT YOU TO FILL THE RENT APPLICATION FORM BELOW:
RENT APPLICATION FORM.
Name (First name/ Middle name/Surname ) : __________?
Phone numbers (home,cell and office line ) # :__________?
E-mail :__________?
Best time to call :__________?
Marital Status:__________?
How many proposed occupants :__________?
List all in addition to yourself including approx age :__________?
Present Address :__________?
City/State :__________?
Will you have pets :__________?
Please describe Breed, size :__________?
Personality of pet :__________?
Preferred move in date :__________?
Intended length of lease:__________?
Do you agree to pay the payment before you move in:__________?
Earliest possible date of deposit payment:__________?
Length of previous tenancy :__________?
Present occupation :__________?
Are you a section 8 applicant
Do you work late night :__________?
Do you smoke :__________?
Do you drink :__________?
Send your picture or family picture __________?
Looking forward to hearing back from you with all this details so that i can have them in my file in case of issuing your rent payment receipt to you and for contacting you. Your quick response will be highly appreciated so that we can discuss on how to get the documents and the keys of my property to you via Express Delivery Services. May GOD bless you and your family.
Regards.
Paul and Josefina
I await your reply ASAP. Regard and God bless you!!!

This type of scam is unfortunately a common occurrence in our industry. You typically see them when people are looking for rental properties on Craig’s List or even Zillow. The criminal pretends he/she is the owner of the home and tries to “lease” you the property. The potential renter writes a check or sends a wire only to find out a few days later that they were not speaking with the owner of the home, they do not have a legally binding lease and they have lost their money.

The email above has many red flags that can help you identify that it is a scam:

  • The price is too good to be true. Let’s face it, this is Coconut Grove and you are not going to find a charming cottage with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath + utilities for $675.00/month.
  • The owner says he won’t be returning to the house for several years. When all communication must be done via email or phone it is a definite warning sign.
  • “Nevermind the real estate sign in the front yard” and “Don’t call the realtor listed on the sign”. They prey on homes that are listed for sale because they can pull the images off of the internet. Another reason they like homes that are listed for sale is because some agents put their listings on lock-box (not in Coconut Grove, but in other areas it is very common) which means that the criminal could potentially give the renter access to the house to see it making it seem more legit.
  • The landlord has an out of town phone number. This does not apply to every case, but you should definitely take notice when the landlord does not have a local phone number.

Ways you can protect yourself:

  • Do an internet search on the landlord. Google their name, look them up on Facebook and find out whatever you can on them.
  • Use Public Records to find out the real homeowner’s name and ask for the their ID to make sure it is the same person.
  • Talk to the neighbors before you sign. Neighbors generally know what is going on and can be a good source of information.
  • Beware of signs that the locks have been recently changed, particularly with vacant properties.
  • Save all of your communications, receipts, checks, phone  numbers and addresses in case you need to get the police involved.

Below is a great example of how the scam works:

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Riley Smith has been the #1 Top Producing Coconut Grove Realtor for over 7 years and knows the market inside and out.  If you would like to buy or sell real estate in Coconut Grove, please contact us at 305-342-1623 or send us a message here.
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