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Don’t Fall For Rental Scams

You may be searching online for the perfect home or apartment to rent. Be warned: Our detectives at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office are investigating a spate of fraudulent rental or real estate schemes by criminals preying on potential renters.

Here’s how it works:

You find a house or an apartment in Volusia County and you e-mail or call the contact person. Soon you’re provided a code or combination to go visit the place, but the suspect won’t meet with you.

Next, the suspect tells you they need money upfront—a security deposit, first/last months’ rent, either by purchasing gift cards or via a Paypal account. If you’re start to think this is a scam, the individual will ease your worries by providing photos of a (stolen) driver’s license to verify their identity.

By the time you send money and realize you’ve been scammed, the suspect’s phone number no longer works, the gift cards have been used, and the individual has moved onto the next victim.

In several cases, our victim has arrived at their new home only to find another victim is waiting to move in—or already has.

This type of rental scam can happen to anyone, of any age. Here are some warning signs to watch for so you can avoid being duped by these criminals.

If the person you’re dealing with:

  • Refuses to meet you in person;
  • Doesn’t provide a lease or paperwork;
  • Asks for pictures of your driver’s license
    and/or Social Security card;
  • Asks for pictures of gift cards;

Tips to avoid becoming a crime victim:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions;
  • Insist on having a face-to-face meeting;
  • Do NOT send checks, money orders, gift cards, or any payment until you can verify that the property isn’t already rented, is actually FOR rent, and the individual has the legal right to rent it.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website offers helpful information and tips for helping seniors—or anyone—protect their finances or avoid being taken advantage of. Go online to senior protection
Folks, we have plenty of challenges this summer, not to mention possible tropical storm activity and keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from COVID-19.

Concerning these rental scams, know what to look for and if it sounds too good to be true. If you think you’re a victim of this type of rental scam, call us at the Communications Center non-emergency number: 386.248. 1777. We’ll be glad to help.

Please stay safe,
Sheriff Chitwood