GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WGFL) — Gainesville resident Naomi Cutrer was looking on Craigslist for a new house to rent, when she stumbled on a three bedroom, two bathroom home on the northwest side of town.
When she emailed the owner, she says he messaged her back within the hour.
“He was telling me he was out of state, and he needed to rent the home as soon as possible,” says Cutrer.
And he offered her a price—she just couldn’t refuse.
“I said my rent is $1,050 a month, and he said ‘well I can give it to you for $850 a month’,” says Cutrer.
Sounds like a steal, but something didn’t feel right.
“He calls 2 to 4 times a day,” says Cutrer.
The man’s cell phone area code is from South Florida, but he claims he lives in Texas, and the bank account and routing number he gave her to send the money—is from Maine.
“And my mind was saying, it’s not right,” Cutrer says.
It wasn’t until Cutrer showed up at the listed house, where, instead of “For Rent,” it said “For Sale,” and that’s when she knew it was a scam.
“I was mad, and I was hurt because how could someone do this?” says Contrer.
“Anytime you have a community such as we are in where there are large numbers of rental property you see it [scams] on a greater scale,” says Art Forgey, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
Real estate companies say it’s easier for the scammer to use houses that are already for sale.
“It’s easy,” says Jeff Quigley, Sr. Vice President of Coldwell Banker at M.M Parish Realtors. “If you find pictures and it looks vacant, then there is not an owner that’s going to answer the door so it makes the whole scam a lot easier.”
If you are renting, here are some tips:
1. Visit the property beforehand
2. Schedule a face to face visit if possible
3. Try to use reputable renting agencies
4. If it looks too good to be true—it probably is
As for Cutrer, she’s just happy she was able to know about the scam—before it was too late.
“I would have been homeless, I wouldn’t have nowhere for anyone to beand I can’t afford that,” says Cutrer.
Cutrer is now looking forward to moving into her new home.