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)

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