Winter Haven police warn residents of Craigslist rental scams

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – Craigslist rental scammers are at it again, this time in Polk County.

“This is the house, a beautiful house,” April Stone said as she showed photos from a Craigslist ad.

Stone knew the home on East Lake Cannon Drive in Winter Haven would be perfect for her family. It was listed on Craigslist for $700 dollars, and the house was a dream.

“Three bedrooms, two baths for rent. Seven hundred dollars a month, utilities included,” she said.

Stone also knew it seemed too good to be true. 

When she called the so-called homeowner she noticed even more red flags.

“The guy was talking about being a U.N. Ambassador,” Stone laughed.

She says he was extremely pushy, and told her she could only see the outside of the property.

Stone was also tipped off by some of the questions on the application.

“He was asking for our work hours and a photo of my entire family,” she said. “Every time I think about it, I get goosebumps all over my body. That’s absolutely terrifying.”

A few clicks and a phone call later she discovered it’s a scam. The home is actually for rent for $1,400 a month.

Stone immediately contacted police and the real homeowner.

“We weren’t aware. I was very happy that she called,” Catherine Frank told WFLA.

Since then, three people have contacted Frank about the fake Craigslist ad.

“It’s scary because I don’t know who is going to show up and think they rented it,” Frank said.

Both women hope their story helps others.

“People that are moving already have it hard. They don’t need it any harder than that, by having money stolen from them,” Frank said.

“If it seems too good to be true it probably is. Trust your gut, trust your instincts” Stone said.

Winter Haven Police recommend that renters always verify and make sure they are renting from the actual owner of the home.

Potential renters can find the owner of a home on their county property appraiser website, or even speak with neighbors.

According to Winter Haven Police, “Citizens are warned to triple check before sending any money and certainly make all transactions in a public place, like a law enforcement facility.”

No arrests have been made.

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