Rental scam hits Bird Key

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Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013 5:24 pm | Updated: 12:57 am, Mon May 6, 2013.

SARASOTA--The sign reading "Scam" says it all on the door of a modest three bedroom house on bird key. It's a quick answer to all the people who have stopped by in the past week thinking they've found a killer deal.

"They had obviously seen it on Craigslist, and it's completely false," said realtor Tom Hanley, who knew something was wrong when around fifteen people showed up thinking the monthly rent was $695--it's actually $3200.

"They were disappointed," said Hanley, "they were saying we couldn't believe it was true, but they still showed up."

Hanley says someone copied the legitimate listing from a real estate website and put a fake listing for the property on Craiglist, conducting all business via email and asking that interested renters send their deposit to an address in South Africa.

"Well it's a waste of time, and it's a shame people are being taken advantage of," said Hanley.

Luckily no one's lost any money just yet. This is the first time Hanley has ever had to deal with a problem like this, but believe it or not it's a fairly common scam.

Just last December ABC 7 told you about a similar hoax in North Sarasota, where the prospective renter lost hundreds of dollars.

Hanley says police didn't even bother taking a report because the problem is so frequent in the area.

He says the best way to avoid this type of scam is to deal directly with a realtor, never send money to a person you've never met, and always trust that little voice inside.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true," said Hanley.

The fake listing on Craigslist has been removed.

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