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FOUR SCAMS, ONE HOUSE | Why a realtor thinks scammers targeted her listing

Housing scam
Posted at 3:48 PM, Nov 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 15:57:55-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A home in Fort Myers has been the target of a scam four separate times, each one being different. The realtor selling the home says she has never seen anything like it.

Arianna Falzone with Palm Paradise Real Estate has been a realtor for about a year. She has seen her fair share of scams, but the ones happened at her listing at Larmie Street and Cranford Avenue are different.

The first scam happened in mid-October.

"Somebody was asking about this listing, but for rent for $950 a month," Falzone said.

It was posted several places online. The problem is the house is for sale, not rent.

Falzone reached out to the woman who posted the house on Facebook Marketplace.

"They explained to me that they were hired by somebody else to go ahead and post all of my exact listing, the photos, the description, all the details and specs, but list it for rent," Falzone explained.

That was scam number two. The woman told Falzone someone in a work-from-home Facebook group promised to pay her $500 to promote the listing online.

"They were part of a scheme without intending to be part of it," Falzone said.

She says the woman never got the money.

Falzone thought the scams ended there, until the third time when a couple showed up to the house with cans of white paint. Luckily, the sellers happened to be home.

"They were hired on Facebook by somebody with a cashier’s check to come and paint the entire house white for $6,000," Falzone said. ."But only $3,000 of it was meant to go to the actual painters and the other $3,000 they were supposed to send off to somebody else."

Turns out they also fell victim to fraud. The couple returned the paint and filed a police report.

Three days later, Falzone said there was a fourth fraud case.

"An individual posing to be a buyer sent out chicken scratch contracts," Falzone said.

She got different calls from different title agencies, telling her the contracts had fake names, forged signatures and other suspicious details. At one point, she says the thief e-mailed her and asked for sensitive information.

Falzone said she knew it was the scammer because the e-mail she received matched the ones on the contracts.

"The first two days there were nine different companies that got the contract," Falzone said.

In the end, she says 21 fake contracts were sent out.

"This is definitely my most severe case of fraud," Falzone said.

Falzone believes the low selling price is likely attractive to fraudsters trying to scam people.

The best way to avoid losing your cash is ask to see the property and do not send money right away. When in doubt, talked to a licensed realtor.

Falzone says to take advantage of the Lee County Property Appraiser's website to find accurate details about the home.