Scam Artist Tries To Play Landlord, Collect Rent For House He Doesn’t Own

A woman in California was about to put down a $1,500 deposit on the house she’d just been shown by a nice young man who was managing the rental property for his dad. Luckily, she told her real estate agent pal about her new digs before she was scammed out of her hard-earned cash.

SFgate.com has the story of a 21-year-old area man who thought he could con multiple hopeful tenants out of cash deposits for a home he doesn’t own.

The man, posing as the owner’s son, showed the woman around the house earlier this week. When she agreed to rent the place, he provided her with a credit application and said he’d need the $1,500 deposit in cash or cashier’s check.

Before she got taken by the scammer, the woman mentioned it to her realtor friend, who happened to know that this house was not a rental property but was actually up for sale.

The man had apparently stolen the “For Sale” sign out of the front yard and was luring victims in with a Craigslist ad.

Meanwhile, legitimate real estate agents were attempting to sell the house. In fact, the real homeowner says an offer had been accepted on the property the same day that the scammer had shown the house to the potential victim.

Working with police, the woman arranged a meeting at the house with the fake property manager to hand over the deposit. He agreed, but for some reason left before she arrived at the property.

Police pulled the scammer over for a traffic violation. Then the woman showed up and identified him as the alleged landlord.

A search of his car turned up the stolen “For Sale” sign, a plastic display box the actual realtor had left inside the home, and completed rental agreements from four different applicants.

The scammer, already out on bail in a felony robbery case, was charged with suspicion of residential burglary, possession of stolen property, renting property under false pretenses and identity theft.

Last year, a woman in Missouri was arrested after scamming nearly $10,000 in deposits from six people trying to rent a property that she did not own. And a man in New Jersey collected $75,000 worth of rent for beach vacation properties he didn’t own or for properties that renters couldn’t access or inhabit.

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  1. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    i’ve had two friends run into this in the past year when looking to move.
    one had a fake zillow ad for a house for sale but when she sent me a link for the house, the first thing i did was start snooping and noticed the contact for sale by owner name didn’t match the property tax documents (available online in this county)
    “um, this Ernie guy you are talking to who says he’s out of town to take care of his dying father in Maryland… pretty sure he’s not related to the lady named Cathy who owns that house and recently purchased another, larger house about ten miles away.”

    and the other was on craigslist and the friend who was looking is an older lady who isn’t very tech savvy. i showed her how to set up google alerts for addresses she was interested in. wouldn’t you know the too good to be true craiglisted “3BR 2BA condo for $450 a month, have to mail you the keys” came back with a ton of MLS realty sale listings.

    but the property tax website, if you can access it, is your best friend. when i was house shopping i was able to determine that the previous owners had paid off their mortgage, moved out a year earlier to become full time RVers and were just trying to unload the house-monkey-on-their-back that no one was living in so they could stop paying taxes and utilities and lawn care. i got a lot of repairs written into the contract and several thousand dollars off their asking price.