DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The rental season is ramping up and with that so is the opportunity for rental scams. I almost fell for it firsthand this week.

A unit off Scenic HWY 98 and Crystal Beach was listed online as a long-term rental with a great deal. Turns out a scam artist had listed the property.

I spoke with the property manager Wednesday who says this is a short-term rental only.

Located a stone’s throw from the beach, a long-term rental under $1,000/month seemed too good to be true. Kathy Shampine who runs the location says this is not the first time it’s happened.

Most of them are very good at talking a good game otherwise they wouldn’t get away with as much as they do.”

KATHY SHAMPINE, Kastle Keepers Property Management

After emails and texts back and forth with the person who made the post. I saw photos and was requested to drive by the home to make sure I liked the location, and that’s when I saw a sign for the rental property on the balcony and called.

Shampine picked up the phone. “I did try to check out this Gregory listing and I could not find him. I checked out his phone number and it is not affiliated with anybody,” said Shampine.

I confronted the man through text identifying myself as a news reporter but he continued, saying it was legit and he would meet me from Orlando If I transferred $100 through Zelle or CashApp. He also asked for my bank routing information as a payment option. 

I showed those messages to the Better Business Bureau serving Northwest Florida.

“He started out with 900 and now he is down to 100 dollars simply to see if he can get some money out of you.”

TAMMY WARD, BBB Northwest Florida

The BBB in Northwest Florida says rental scams are unfortunately common here. A tip for consumers is to look for listings through a verified rental website.

“You were scammed but you had the forethought to look into it more deeply before you sent any money,” said Ward.

The BBB says the best way to protect yourself from scammers is to double-check your sources and avoid private messaging. The BBB also says if the property lister does not ask for a background check or employment information, that is a red flag.

MORE TIPS FROM THE BBB:

Tips for renters:

  • Confirm the identity of the landlord. A legitimate landlord won’t hesitate to show their ID and allow a photo to be taken. Confirm the real property owner by checking county registers.
  • Know local rental prices. If someone offers a great rental for an extremely low price, compare the same property in the same neighborhood and ask questions.
  • See the property first. Never sign a lease or make a deposit without seeing the property in person first.
  • Never wire money to a stranger. Don’t give in to a sob story. Once the wired cash is gone and the deal falls through, there is no way to get the money back. Legitimate landlords should always accept payment by check.
  • Watch out for red flags. If a property has a “for sale” sign, but the “landlord” wants to rent, ask questions. It’s also suspicious to find a broken lockbox. Check local rental and sales listings. See if the property is on there before going to an open house.
  • Use the services of a reputable rental agency. Find agents on BBB.org.

Avoid online shopping schemes:

  • Look out for too-good-to-be-true deals. Know the normal price range of the item and be wary if you see the same product available at a steeply discounted price.
  • Double check the “business address.” If a website has a business address, search the address. If the address pops up on a map as a residential address, a vacant property, empty lot or overseas, chances are it’s probably not a legitimate business.
  • Make purchases through a reputable online retailer. Double check business ratings at BBB.org and read through customer reviews before moving forward with an online retailer.

See more and find links to credible rental sites here.