It happens all over the United States.
In Florida a homeless man pocketed about $1,375 by renting out a vacant home. Another Florida man was said to have collected more than $16,000 in “rent money” in one month.
In New Jersey a man collected more than $15,000 in rent and security deposits.
A California man collected about $26,000 over a seven month period.
These were all cases of thieves renting out foreclosed or vacant homes they did not own.
Real Estate people say that many banks will make very little effort in managing or even trying to resell foreclosed houses. Often all they will do is hire someone to keep the lawn mowed.
The thieves find these vacant homes just by driving around and being observant. Or they may use the Multiple Listing Service or other computer records to find foreclosed properties.
Then the scammer will pretend they are the owner and call a locksmith to have the locks changed or rekeyed.
Then they can simply run a rental ad. The homeless man mentioned above used Craigslist, and this has been a popular spot may other thieves use to run ads to rent homes they don’t own.
The victims of these crimes end up losing thousands of dollars, which they usually never get back. Since the victims have also signed a “fake lease”, they are forced to move out of a home they have settled into, because they are legally considered squatters.
Since the banks or other owners aren’t watching or managing these homes, these crimes often go on for months or years, and aren’t discovered unless somebody suspects something suspicious.
The crook(s) could be long gone before police find out about the crime. To find the crooks, police undercover officers may have to pose as potential home renters.
Considering many victims are losing thousands of dollars in these scams, I think banks and/or owners should take more responsibility with these properties.
One or two outdoor security cameras could be set up without too much effort.
Also, indoor IP security cameras could be set up. Both the outdoor and indoor cameras could have the feature of surveillance being recorded 24 hours a day. Cameras are also available which include motion detectors that will alert a cell phone if there is activity.
Even if no bank officials want to bother getting alerts to their cell phone, a DVR security system could be recording all activity.
If someone is seen showing up with a locksmith, or taking people inside and showing the home, at least there would be video evidence for police. Then action could be taken to stop the fraud scheme before it gets too far along.