Renters beware: Fake Craigslist ad scam becomes growing problem

Investigators said they need more victims in a rental scam to come forward so they can put an end to the growing problem.

The investigation began earlier this month when an Osceola County couple trying to sell their home found out someone ripped off their online ad and posted the property for rent on Craigslist.

The alleged scammers tried to collect application fees.

Channel 9’s Angela Jacobs found out the scam runs through Southwest Orange County as well, but its highest concentration is in Osceola County.

Real estate agent Susy Ortiz and her client, Jimmy Torres, were shocked to see a condo Ortiz is selling as a fake rental on Craigslist.

“There’s no way you could tell,” said Ortiz.

The alleged scammers have more than 80 ads on Craigslist.

Each Craigslist ad listed the same contact information, an all-electronic payment process and requested no calls or emails.

“That should be a red flag; the fact that they are already putting stipulations on how to contact them,” said Capt. Jacob Ruiz of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

Ruiz said the alleged scammers use phones that can’t be traced.

“When you verify that phone, it’s nonexistent, and they can just turn it off and on using a public IP access at any Starbucks or any free Wifi anywhere,” he said.

If two people fell for the scam each day and paid the $310 application fee, the scammers would make more than a quarter million dollars a year.

“We will do everything in our power to investigate and find a suspect, but it is difficult,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said people with bad credit, big pets or undocumented immigrants are the biggest targets.

He added that oo one will be penalized for coming forward to report the crime.