florida real estate scams

How To Avoid Florida Real Estate Scams

Florida real estate scams are on the rise, and many have already fallen victim to them. Protecting yourself from these types of Florida investment scams requires knowledge on how to spot them and what to do when faced with property management fraud.


The Rising Frequency of Florida Real Estate Scams

While more often associated with credit cards and the business sector, scams are not uncommon in the world of real estate. Americans experience real estate fraud all over the country. In fact, according to an Apartment List study in 2018, about 5.2 million renters have personally experienced rental scams, 31.4 percent of whom have lost over $1,000. In Florida, locals and tourists alike fall for rental scams on the regular.

The internet has made it easy for scammers to swindle innocent Florida residents out of thousands of dollars, especially with the advent of websites such as Craigslist. Scammers begin by searching for available official listings online, using information and photos from credible websites for their own purposes. Then, they create their own listing with the details they have gathered. Once their fake listing catches someone’s eye, the scammer will then ask for payment in the supposed form of an application fee, a deposit, or other charges.


How to Identify Rental Property Scams

Because scammers can orchestrate Florida real estate scams from anywhere in the world, it can be hard to crack down on them. Every year, thousands of Americans still fall victim to these fraudulent acts. As an interested party, you must learn to identify the signs of rental scams in order to protect yourself from them.


1. Impossibly Low Price

There are some listings that just seem too good to be true. If you encounter any properties with very low rental fees, you should do more research. See if other properties in the area have the same price range. If not, then the listing you found is likely a fake.

Scammers take official listings, along with photos and information, and post them on other websites as their own. They usually lower the price significantly in order to drum up interest. Once they catch your attention, they will then proceed to do or say anything they can to close the deal.


2. Lack of Reviews

reviews | real estate scamsIf you rely on a property manager or management company, it is a good idea to research reviews from customers they have previously worked with. Simply Googling the name of the property manager or company can turn up many results. If someone has had a bad experience in the past and claims fraud, think twice about working with them.

Apart from that, you must also confirm that a possible rental property is not in foreclosure. Scammers will sometimes take properties in foreclosure and market them to potential tenants. Your property manager should possess a legal right to rent the property in question. You can easily check the status of the property by heading to the county recorder’s office.


3. Cash Only

So, you have found the ideal property and want to rent it out. But, when discussing modes of payment, the listing owner insists on transacting on a cash basis only. That is an obvious red flag.

Rental scammers require anonymity to continue their illegal activities and avoid getting caught. They insist on cash payments to keep their identities hidden. If a listing owner asks you to pay using cash or a money wiring service, take a step back. There is a good chance that it is a scam. Some scammers may even ask you to use cryptocurrency.

Legitimate property managers have no problem dealing with check payments. Therefore, if the person on the other end wants to use a mode of payment that leaves no trail, back out of the deal.


4. Poorly Written Listing

More often than not, you can spot red flags in the way property listings are written. These listings are usually constructed poorly, with grammatical errors and misspelled words all over the page. The same goes for emails and other methods of correspondence. Additionally, if the scammer did not take from other official listings, their fake one will typically have little to no information and poor-quality photos.

Credible property managers will have clear photos of their listings. They will also make it a point to include all the pertinent information written in a professional manner. If you are a property manager and want to prevent scammers from stealing your photos, consider placing a watermark over them.


5. No Face-to-Face Meeting

Some scammers use creative (and illegal) ways to physically show you the property. They rely on self-showing lockboxes or even resort to breaking into a property just to defraud people. However, not all scammers have the patience nor means to do these things. A lot of scammers just want to get money as fast as possible.

It is a bad sign if the so-called property manager refuses to meet you in person to show you the property. Scammers will usually try to discourage you from seeing the property firsthand, making excuses like they are out of town or have no time. They also do this so that you have no way of identifying them after they make a run for it with your money in their pockets.


Protecting Yourself from Property Management Scam

protect | real estate scamsFlorida real estate scams are not limited to rental property scams, though. Property management fraud is also a frequent occurrence in the Florida real estate industry.

This happens when property managers, even licensed ones, charge owners for work that they did not do. They can also charge owners too much or for maintenance and repairs that were not necessary, to begin with.

The first thing property owners must do when faced with such a problem is to complain to the property manager. The next step is to file a complaint with the state agency or bureau of real estate. If enough people file complaints against them, it may encourage the agency to conduct an investigation. Property owners can also turn to a public forum or website to detail their experience with the property manager or management company. Owners can take legal action, too, but that will take time, effort, and money.


Safeguard Yourself and Others

The key to avoiding Florida real estate scams is awareness. It is important for you, as a renter, to stay vigilant and learn to identify the red flags of rental property scams. By doing so, you can protect your money and report the scammer to the proper authorities, thereby saving others from falling victim, as well.

Looking for the best property management company, real estate agent, or HOA management company can be a difficult process. Make it easier by using Florida Property Management’s online directory, where you can filter your options by location.