I thought I had heard it all and then I heard this: Con artists are re-keying vacant houses that have been for sale for awhile, running ads to rent them and then making off with security deposits and a first month of rent.
Sacramento real estate agent Carey Covey of Cook Realty tells us today that a misled renter lost $2,000 in a scheme at one of his Sacramento bank-owned listings that is now in escrow.
This trend popped up during the 1990s downturn in the capital region, Covey says. It is back and growing stronger. Offenders might work with a locksmith to change the key on the lock or break into the house and change the locks, he says.
He says the victim told him he was dealing with a so-called landlord, about 35 years old, who called herself Marie Roberts. He says she had a rental contract, offered a post office box for an address and her cell phone number. Her story was she had just bought the house, he says.
Says Covey: We have had one other instance of this, and I know there are other people who are having it. I think people are embarrassed about it and they just do not report it so they just keep doing it.
How do you protect yourself? Covey is not convinced you can if the person has the right keys and a standard rental contract. The red flags, he says, is a landlord offering a post office box instead of a real address and a cell phone number. Be careful out there.