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The Miami New Times recently reported on a real estate scammer who’s been swindling in the South Beach area. It seems that a Frenchman that goes by the names “Chris” or “Christian” broke into a lockbox on an apartment that was up for rent, and proceeded to steal the keys and advertise himself as the agent for the unit. He then rented the apartment to four different people in only two days, and took off with their deposits.

“Chris” was caught when the “real” agent hired by the owners, Mike Benmeleh, listed the apartment and received a call from a woman who said she had put a deposit down on the apartment but hadn’t heard a peep from the agent since.

As strange as this sounds, it isn’t an isolated case. Just a few months ago, there was a similar case in Round Rock, Texas, as reported by North Dallas Homes blog. And it’s been known to strike not only renters, but home buyers as well.

The moral of this story? Do your homework. When choosing a real estate agent, check with your state’s real estate commission to ensure that they are licensed. You can also see if there are any complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau. Plus, be sure to get referrals from past clients.

(Illustration courtesy Alvaro Diaz-Rubio/Miami New Times)

  • http://www.elliman.com Vic Parise

    I have heard horror stories about an agent selling the same home 9times and collecting all these deposits then dissappeared in the night.
    Thats awful. I feel bad, but these folks, dont they check these things before handing I all this money.
    Vic Parise

  • http://www.up2daterealestate.com Pasadena CA Homes for Sale

    We came across a fraudulent ad for a property rental. The supposed owner was out of the country and was asking for a certified check sent to a third party. We did a property search and found the correct owner and notified him that someone was attempting to rent his property for $600/month less than he was.

    People should be wary of online ads and be suspect of someone who you will never meet.

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