THE RENT SCAM

Posted on Posted in Investigations
October 30, 2016
By Private Detective Fernando Álvarez
DIARIO LAS AMERICA
.
The economic crisis that began a few years ago brought many problems for people of all ages and socioeconomic levels, depression affected us all in one way or another. The crises create economic losses, job layoffs, scarce resources and all these generate in turn much desperation and confusion in the population. Unfortunately many people were left to be convinced by offers that were contrary to the “common sense”, offers too good to be true. As the saying goes, ” It’s good fishing in troubled waters.” Although, in this case its only good for scammers.
.
It was a humble family who requested my services and began to tell their story, “Detective, since we arrived in this city, we have been living with our relatives, who have given us all the help we need and although our economy is precarious due to the lack of better jobs, It was already time for us to rent an apartment of our own. We started to look for but the monthly payments they requested were too high in the areas we wanted to live. We desperately searched in areas farther away from the city where prices were more adjusted to our possibilities. While we were visiting places for rent we observed a poster on the street offering an apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, patio and parking for two vehicles, located in an area much closer to the area that we wanted and at an incredible price, only $1,100 per month. We called the phone number and Rodolfo [name changed], the real estate agent who answered it, set us up to see the apartment that same Saturday evening at 7:30pm. We were so excited that we arrived before 7:00pm, Rodolfo arrived at about 7:30pm and we entered the apartment. It was impeccable and very spacious, really a bargain, as the price of similar apartments exceeded $1,500 in that area. He told us that if we wanted to occupy it immediately we should pay it in money order or cash because if we write a check then it would take a week for him to give us the keys. The total to pay was $3,300 to cover the first month, the last month and the security deposit. We agreed without thinking, because we were afraid of him renting it to another person, we paid the $3,300 in cash and signed the contract. Rodolfo handed over the keys to us while apologizing for having been able to fix the front door lock. The truth is that we did not realize when entering that the lock was broken due to having been forced, the key did not worked. He asked us to change the lock ourselves and to pass the bill to him for a refund. We were so happy that we did not give much importance to that little problem. The next day, we started with the move. On Monday morning a man dressed in a suit with the police arrived and asked us what we were doing in the apartment. It was a very unpleasant situation. Everything was a fraud, Rodolfo was not the real estate agent assigned to that property, the rent was $1,700 per month and the contract was false. We had simply been scammed. The police took the statement for their report and informed us that such frauds were occurring very frequently in that area. We called Rodolfo’s phone but it was already disconnected. We want to locate Rodolfo to seek justice. Can you help us?”
.
“Everything indicates that it was a well-planned scam, by someone who has done it in the past, but we can still investigate to see what we find,” I responded to this desperate family, who had fallen into the trap of a cunning swindler. Although the chances of success were very low because they only had a disconnected phone, a probably false name, the photograph of the advertisement and a contract that was more false than a $4 bill.
.
The initial investigation did not take long to confirm that the phone was prepaid and that there were several Rodolfo who were real estate agents in that area, but their photographs were not identified by my clients as the scammer. There was not enough information in this case, but I passed the photo of the street poster to my investigators in the field just in case they observed similar posters while doing other investigations. In three days, my investigators collected photos of 11 listings of rentals too cheap to be real. We proceeded to call each of the phones and chose 2 which seemed interesting due to the similarity with the characteristics of Rodolfo. Our customers identified Rodolfo’s voice, proceeded to prepare a bait operation and effectively my plan did not fail. Rodolfo quoted us to the apartment on the advertisement; we recorded everything with hidden cameras. As part of the plan we did not reach to an agreement and Rodolfo left in his vehicle, subtly followed by our investigators. After 2 hours and many laps Rodolfo arrived to a very nice house and parked the vehicle in the garage, inside we could observe another vehicle and write down the plates. The vehicle used by Rodolfo to attend the appointment used unregistered plates but the second vehicle observed in the garage of his house was in the name of who was later identified as his female partner. Rodolfo, whose last name was different, had been a real estate agent long ago in another city but had lost his license for lawsuits and complaints received by his clients. Although Rodolfo came to play bottom economically to the point of declaring bankruptcy the previous year, he now lived very well. As we were able to find out later, Rodolfo had an accomplice, a young criminal to whom Rodolfo paid to break the locks of empty apartments before shows them to possible clients, so Rodolfo could enter the apartment and show it without problem, always in the afternoon when it was safer.
.
The report and evidence was presented to my clients and later to the police. My clients went further by filing a small claim in court and a complaint to the prosecution office. I do not know what happened later to Rodolfo, but nothing good could have ended because his crime was not only that of scam but also that of trespassing.
.
For your own safety never act under the effects of desperation, analyze the situation coldly and stop if you notice that the offer is too good to be true. Check the licenses of the professionals you hire visit them in their offices and be sure to sign a contract that is real. If you are hesitant to rent, contact a real estate agent with good references to act as your agent. Think before you act.
.
Beware of fraud, but if you need help please contact us at 866-224-1245.