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Thread: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

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    Default South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    So... we think we may have been had...

    After replying to this craigslist posting and several emails and phone calls later with the "renter", we sent off 1/2 of the deposit ($650.00) with the remaining half to be paid upon arrival along with 1st month's rent:

    " Sun kissed, large, furnished apartment for rent short term , located in South Beach. Located five blocks from the Ocean, three from Whole foods, five from local library, two from Publix, three from local public park that is equipped with tennis courts and pool. Apartment is available for three months to 6 months, November1st . Apartment is located on a nice, quiet street, in a clean, well kept two story Art Deco bldg. Ideal for Graduate Student, Intern, or someone relocating to Miami, in need of a base while looking for their own place. Apartment has 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living and dining rooms and a bathroom. Utilities and wifi internet except for electricity included.Coin operated washer and dryer on premises. Access to lovely wee garden. There is a cat in the house. Warm, kindhearted, considerate person preferred. Three references and one month deposit is required."

    We are two females living "up North" looking to relocate to Miami for the winter, so this looked perfect to us.

    The lady called our current landlord for references; she said she was going overseas for a few months and needs to have her rent covered. Her emails and phone calls were very lengthy, consistent and informative.Due to our schedules we did not have the opportunity to travel to Miami to see the apartment, and several realtors/ rental agencies were not able to find what we were looking for, so we went with this.The apartment building is owned by a company; checking the address with various state websites really did not cause any suspicion. The lady's land line number is however listed on another address along with the name of a gentleman she told us was her "significant other".

    After the deposit was mailed off she never emailed me to confirm receipt, but I have a copy of the cashed checks with her signature. I have emailed her twice to confirm receipt but she has not responded. She told us she was leaving the country October 7, 2011. Her good friend and neighbor is supposed to collect her mail and is supposed to give us the apartment keys when we arrive; we were asked to start forwarding mail so that we would have proof of residency to apply for a parking permit. I called the number she had given for him and left a message yesterday, but he has not called back.Clearly her letter with the deposit arrived at the address, (unless it's been forwarded to another unbeknownst to us, address... how would we find out?)... since the checks were received and cashed.But what is happening to our mail that is being forwarded there?

    We are supposed to arrive the first week of November.... how can we get information about whether or not the apartment is really available to us, or if someone else is living there???Has anyone else experienced the same? Are we being scammed... or are we being completely paranoid????????Thanks for any and all feedbacks!
    Last edited by Jess; 10-19-2011 at 11:53 AM. Reason: put in paragraphs for easier reading

  2. #2
    rk
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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    (for future postings, please use line breaks and paragraphs, it is very hard to read otherwise)

    Sorry to hear about your experience.

    Are you renting a condo or an apartment?

    If you don't hear back from anyone within a couple of days, I recommend contacting the condo HOA, or the apartment management company. The information is publicly available in most cases. Keep in mind that subletting a condo or apartment may be against building rules.

    At the same time, you should start looking for an alternate rental as your arrival date is approaching (but don't commit to anything until you can confirm that your first rental is not going to work).

    For next time (and for new readers):

    (1) Never rent anything from Craigslist sight unseen (and there are cases where people were scammed even after seeing the place, so really never rent anything on Craigslist, and that goes double for the Miami area)

    (2) Always verify that the rental is legal, i.e. the building allows short-term rentals e.g., and that the current tenant or "owner" is authorized to rent the place.

    (3) Rent from reputable web sites, and check how long the place has been listed on that site.

    (4) If renting for more than 6 months, work with a local realtor.

    (5) Check online reviews, post the link to the rental ad on online travel sites like this one and ask for advice, before renting.

    (6) Check County records to make sure the owner in fact owns the place, check court records for owners name etc.

    (7) Don't be too trusting of descriptions, photos etc.

    Good luck, please keep us posted.

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Hi acksunny, so sorry to hear about this. We have had our share of scams discussed on this website, including one notorious one that we helped bust: BEWARE: Craigslist Scammer Monica Brown in South Beach

    RK, is there a local library near Flamingo Park? Because that's where it sounds like the apartment is located ... I thought the only library was by Collins Park. Also, how could you be by Flamingo and still be only two blocks from Publix? Already this makes me suspicious.

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Here is a link to the ad: http://miami.craigslist.org/mdc/sub/2636180309.html

    It says 8th street and Michigan.

    acksunny, create a bogus email account and ask if the apartment is still available ...
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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Ok, there is a discrepancy here. The current ad that I found searching via google was posted Oct 6, yet the apartment itself is only available for the "month of October" ... how can you rent an apartment for the month of October when you post an ad almost one week into the month? It sounds like the terms were different for you acksunny, so you might have seen a different ad. Please confirm.

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    RK, yet another sign why I should start my relocation business ... sigh.

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    OK, here is the SAME ad posted September 19 for a $1300 / 2br - 2 bdrm Apt Sublet/Short term/3-6 mnths, whereas the other ad on October 6 was for a one bedroom for one month for $650.

    http://miami.craigslist.org/mdc/sub/2606287844.html

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    acksunny, it sounds to me like you had seen the FIRST ad (you gave half a deposit of $1300 = $650) and that if she was leaving by Oct 7 (allegedly) with a move-in date for you the first week of November, she was trying to scramble to get the apartment rented for whatever was left for the month of October, which really makes no sense. This whole thing is very fishy. Disappearing and making no contact after she cashed the check is a tell tale sign. Have you talked to your bank to see if you can trace her path that way?

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Amazing detective work Maria!

    You really should consider becoming a realtor.

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Dear rk,
    Thank you for editing my post. It had neat paragraphs when I typed it but turned in to one big block once I posted it.
    Thank you also for your advice; it is greatly appreciated.
    I will comment more further down.

    Best,
    acksunny

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Dear Maria,
    WOW!!!!!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to look in to our situation and putting so much energy in to it already. You have no idea how much we appreciate your involvement!!!

    We have been out all day, and been on the phone with our banks and also with the Miami Beach PD. We are trying to have our respective banks track where our two checks were cashed so that we can determine which jurisdiction will handle the case before we can file an official complaint.

    First of all: Yes, the September 19 posting is identical to the one I replied to; and we are completely baffled to see that the apartment is relisted with different wording!!!!
    I will indeed send her another "inquiry" and see what turns out from that.

    I am tempted to send you copies of my email correspondence with her to see if you could get more clues; however several names are mentioned and I am afraid to drag innocent people's names in to this mess in a public forum.
    I just attempted to call "her good friend and neighbor" (who is supposed to take care of her mail while she is abroad) back, left another message with a bait: that I need to hear back from him before we can send more money. Which, obviously we will not, unless the police gets involved.

    We are also contemplating contacting the person who's name is listed as the occupant of the apartment in question, to see if he knows anything about this woman, who is clearly accessing mail from his mail box; and or to warn him that he and his apartment are involved in a scam.

    I will keep you posted on any developments; and obviously will check in here to see if you have found out more.

    Excellent detective work! You made our day!

    Warmest regards,
    acksunny

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Maria,
    Not that I don't think this is not a scam, but it just occurred to me that the newest listing for the one bedroom for the month of October, does not necessarily conflict with the first ad, where the apartment is available November 1st.
    In an email our "girl" said that she has a friend (a "doctor", "Angela") subletting until the end of October, so this could be to fill up the second room to get revenue until "our rental" kicks in.

    In other words... it sort of adds up.
    Regardless I will email her under another name and see if she replies.

    Thanks again!!!!!
    acksunny

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    rk
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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Maria, Wow indeed! You can add Scam Buster to your growing list of future business titles.

    There is a strange internal consistency to this which could mean that the scammer stole the description from an actual earlier ad, or some possibility this may not be a total scam, though it is never a good sign when you send the check and then hear nothing back. Hoping acksunny will send us an update.

    The location does match the description, 8'th and Michigan would be a couple of blocks from the Publix on 6'th, and just over 5 blocks from the south shore library branch in the 100 block of Alton.

    Disclaimer: I did not edit the original post, it was our able moderator Jess who added the formatting to make it readable.

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    It is definitely in the area of Michigan, Lennox etc around 7-9 street. That is plausible to be called near to the park, library (on Alton), Whole Foods and Publix. Another Sobe scammer though, we don't need any more of those.

    People: use a realtor!!!

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Hey guys,
    A little preliminary update: Since we started putting pressure on the situation yesterday and called a couple of the other people who's names were given to us by the "renter", things are starting to look a little bit less dodgy.

    Call it a string of non-favorable events that led to the lack of communication in the last two weeks...
    No, we are not immediately ready to get rid of all suspicion; we are still working with our banks and with the police to help verify that the landlady and apartment are both legitimate... and it does actually seem like it might be a possibility.

    I will keep you posted and up to speed... but for now please don't pour any more energy and time in to this.

    Thank you so very much thus far!

    Fingers crossed,
    acksunny

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    It may be a scam, but I wouldn't read too much into non-returned phone calls. Sadly, that seems to be a local custom!

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    acksunny, I am so relieved to hear that this might be a misunderstanding ... thank you for letting us know and keeping us posted. In my heart of hearts I hope it will be one of those 'all's well that ends well' type of situations.

    I realize that the situation might add up, but I'm still curious why the October ad was placed on the 6th. In any case, as long as it works out, it's all good.

    I didn't know there was a library on Alton. Good to know!

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    If it was a scam, I don't think they would have bothered to check the references. They also wouldn't likely have a brick and mortar address to send the check to. These factors don't mean it's definitely legit, but they're positive signs! You can also check out the property ownership through the county assessor site (http://www.miamidade.gov/pa/property_search.asp). I agree with Maria -- make sure you verify that it is okay for them to sublet to you -- because they could be legit and breaking the building rules. You wouldn't want that to come back and bite you later!

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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    Dear Doug,
    Thank you for you input as well.
    Trust me, we have gone through every single detail about this rental in the last couple of weeks; pros and cons for why it had to be/ could not be a scam; we checked the county assessor site which gave a property management company as owner of the building.

    Common sense mixed with a portion of paranoia, a dash of disbelief, a table spoon of desperation and a dose of outrage... it's been a roller coaster ride!!!!

    We do however now feel even more confident that this is NOT a scam, after finally getting in touch with our "renter"; with her neighbor; our banks (our checks were in fact deposited in to her account) and the fact that she agrees we should not send more checks but wait until we are given the keys and find everything in order once we arrive.

    We were given the name of a local journalist for references, we contacted him and he backs up the information. We have also verified his identity. Alas... sigh of relief... for now... It does in fact seem that this, again, is NOT a scam.

    Just a long list of strange coincidences, bad communication, mixed information.. and paranoia. I admit.

    If anything else turns up I will be sure to keep you guys in the loop.

    From the bottom of our hearts: THANK YOU for caring and getting involved!!!

    Warm regards,
    acksunny
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    Default Re: South Beach Apartment Sublet Rental Scam?

    My husband and I are moving back to Miami : ) in a few months. We're considering subletting from someone to start. Need a temp furnished place is all, really, until we can find a more permanent home.

    Didn't know much about sublets till now. Wow!

    Sorry you've had to go through all this crap acksunny, but thanks for posting. We've learned a lot from you, Maria and others.

    All the best ~

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