By Ken Kleinlein
ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – NBC News, the Better Business Bureau, and others have reported on this scam.
Criminals search the classified sections of newspapers and scan neighborhoods for rental and for sale signs. When they see any they feel could make money for them they contact potential victims and offer the properties at amounts far below market price, requesting a down payment to acquire a fantastic deal.
Received the information below from Deputy Steven Armand, Orange County, Calif. Sheriff’s Office:
VISTA LAGUNA, you know when a house has a name it’s got to be good!
3 bedrooms, 2½ baths overlooking Cress Point direct beach access gourmet kitchen fire pit off street parking walk to heart of laguna beach
Perfect for my love ones 12 miles from my house..
I email property manager an inquire about November.…November is available. “JAMES DOUGLAS” sends me approximate cost info for 10 days.
I take the family to Laguna to see VISTA LAGUNA, beach, coastline view is breathtaking. I enter locked gated patio and find two men loading up a car. I asked if they are guests they say they were.
I quizzed on how they like “VISTA.” They said they were there for Easter week and it’s great, the female property manager is great to work with.
I e-mail James to see how to proceed. He says fill out e-mail rental agreement and e-mail it back to him. He will then send final cost with info on how to pay the deposit
I get rental agreement and notice it has wrong address on it. I e-mail James for a correct one, he e-mails back more info on wiring bank payment but no new rental form.
I e-mail again stating I’d like to meet him at the property to inspect the house, fill out a correct rental agreement and pay the deposit.
He writes back “he’s the property manager” and the payment must be sent via bank wire transfer to owner as more people are interested in same time frame.
I e-mail James with my phone number.
Thursday night at 2130 hours I get a phone message from James stating I better wire money quick or I will lose property.
Friday morning at 0730 hours. Phone rings with unknown San Diego number, It’s James, hurry with money transfer can’t hold property long. To buy time I tell him SEND ME A NEW RENTAL AGREEMENT AND I’LL GET IT TO YOU THEN AND MAKE PAYMENT, he says OK.
I call LARRY my partner telling him my concerns that deal is a scam, He agrees to go with me to property and we’ll snoop around.
We find side patio gate unlocked and go in. IT LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE IS RENTING.
THIS IS NOW POLICE BUSINESS.
I wander around house knock on door, no answer. Larry’s looking for any type of rental management sign
I close gate and notice two young women walking up from beach stairs headed for gate. I say “IT’S NOT LOCKED” they turn and stare at me (should we scream or run).
I introduce myself and asked if they are guests and they say yes. I explain my interested in renting the house and ask if they dealt with “JAMES,” they respond no. I asked if they sent monies to a “BRETT BENTON” they say no. They tell me they deal with DENISE thru vrbo.com and provide me with her number.
I call Denise and tell her the Readers Digest version of my story. She confirms JAMES must be a scammer. She’ll look at the ad he posted and contact her office and the owners. She asked what dates I am interested in and will get back to me.
Around 1900 hours I get a call back from DENISE. She thanks me for alerting her to the scam.
LAGUNA VISTA is available for the dates I am interested in for November.
THEN SHE GIVES ME THE COST BREAK DOWN FOR TEN DAYS, TOTAL ONLY $5,000. She adds that includes the new city room tax for vacation rentals and daily cleaning.
I pick myself off the floor and tell her I’ll check with my wife (I had $3,000 budgeted).
Folks, if you see a property rental or purchase offer that seems too good to be true there is a good chance it is a scam. Don’t get involved!
Take care, be careful, and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene.
God Bless and protect our Military, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and EMT’s
Happy Birthday Joe.
Ken Kleinlein is a former detective with the NYPD special frauds squad, coordinating with local, state, and federal law enforcement, and accredited security firms, on matters of crime prevention and public information.
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