Realtors warn of St. Johns County rental scam

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Source: There’s a consumer alert for renters.Realtors warn that online con artists are targeting locals seeking homes for rent and posing ...

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There’s a consumer alert for renters.Realtors warn that online con artists are targeting locals seeking homes for rent and posing as the owners of the property in an effect to swindle hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars from unsuspecting people. The News4Jax I-TEAM uncovered the scam in St. Johns County.Some of the scammers can be very convincing, sending paperwork and professional photos. But at the end of the day, all they want is your hard-earned money.On Craigslist, there’s a listing for a charming, well-kept, two-bedroom house in historic St. Augustine with a rental cost of just $500 a month. It’s a steal.All you have to do is send that money some man you’ve never met and then he’ll send you the keys.If it sounds fishy to you, you’re right. It’s a scam. Somebody’s trying to catch potential renters off guard, and recently preyed on at least two families looking for a new home.”The owner called me and said that people had knocked on his door and wanted to know if their house was for rent,” said realtor Pam Eng, with Prime Real Estate Company.Eng, who’s the listing agent, said the home is definitely not for rent, it’s for sale for $269,000. But someone is shopping it around on Craigslist as a really affordable rental.”She saw it on Craigslist,” Eng said. “She had a couple of emails back and forth, and he sent her that email about him being a reverend and he just wanted to hurry up and get rid of it.”Rev. Douglas Smith Edward has been telling people he’s a missionary in California. He did send his potential victims a real lease, but would only talk via text messages. They could wire $500 rent and $500 for the security deposit and it would be a done deal. Luckily, they called his bluff.”If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said realtor Cole Slate, with EXIT Real Estate Gallery, who News4Jax also spoke with about a similar scam last year. “The Craigslists, the Zillows … Facebook’s Swip Swap groups. There’s so much opportunity for the scammers, for this fraud to occur.”Slate advised that before your open your wallet:

Do your homework on who you’re talking to.
Get a name and title for whoever your talking to, and check with their so-called employer, too.
Don’t do deals over the phone, by text or through email.
Don’t send money to anyone you haven’t met.
Fact check all claims they may make.

“You need to take every precautionary measure there is,” Slate said. “For your time, for your wallet, make sure that you have a professional involved. Cover all your bases.”
The I-TEAM tried calling and texting Rev. Douglas Smith Edward, but the call went straight to voicemail and no text has been returned.
Source: News 4 Jax

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