Demand for rental properties leads to more online scams, Osceola County deputies say

A growing demand for rental properties across Central Florida has meant a spike in prices.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — A growing demand for rental properties across Central Florida has meant a spike in prices. However, the demand has led to the revival of an old online scam.

An Osceola County homeowner told Channel 9’s Angela Jacobs her property was used as a target.

Crooks offer great deals on rentals and collect nonrefundable application fees before pulling the advertisement and disappearing, deputies said.

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Detectives at the county sheriff's office told Eyewitness News that they see one to two cases of the online scam a week.

For the past five weeks, Maria Black and her husband have been looking to sell their previous home in Poinciana, just 20 minutes from Disney.

"I can see a lot of families thinking this is perfect," Black said.

Black found out someone that she didn’t know, listed her home as a rental on Craigslist.

Deputies told Black that there wasn’t much that they could do about the phony Craigslist post because it was taken down. Black decided to take matters into her own hands and texted the crooks herself.

The crooks asked her for a $310 application fee and a deal to rent the home, she said.

“They came across as real estate agents and ‘please go to their website’ and to make sure we were comfortable before we did anything,” Black said.

Black did not give the crooks any money.

Bruce Elliott, president of the Orlando Realtors Association, told Eyewitness News that he’s had two clients who’ve lost $5,000 to online scams.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office said people should always demand to meet someone in person before paying any fees.