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Beware rental scams, red flags to watch out for when searching for property online

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - Many people have stepped up during the pandemic to help the community, while others have taken advantage of those who are struggling.

The number of rental scams has increased according to one north central Florida real estate agency.

At Resolute Real Estate, they’re seeing more people fall victim to rental scams and it could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They said it’s almost always the tenant who becomes the victim of a scam.

“There’s really no damage that’s one to the landlord, it’s typically that the perspective tenant has sent money they’ll never get back,” President and Broker of Resolute Property Management, Clay Lehman said.

It happens when people search for property listings online.

Lehman said it’s easy for fraudsters to duplicate and create a fake listing to scam the potential renter.

“They steal the pictures, the description and then they create a fake listing at a much lower price to attract people to the listing,” Lehman said.

And with many struggling through the pandemic, it’s caused a rise in these scams.

“In any market where there’s desperation if you will and in our market for housing there is some level of desperation, it creates opportunities for fraudsters because people lower their defenses or they don’t use their best judgment because they’re so desperate to find a house,” Lehman said.

But there are things to look out for so you can protect yourself.

“To protect yourself against this, the first thing is to look out for something that seems too good to be true. The other is, look at the photos that they’re using,” Lehman said.

And be sure to watch out if a ‘landlord’ asks you to wire or send money to them, Lehman said.

Lehman and his team have create several videos and blog posts about this topic.

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