Rental scam victim loses $1,350

OKEECHOBEE — An Okeechobee man was the victim of a con known as ‘the renters scam’ when he paid to rent a home on N.W. 37th Avenue that was already rented.

Not only did he miss out on renting the home, but the scammer conned him out of $1,350.

Ironically, an Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office deputy met with the property manager of the home on March 27 who complained that people are trying to rent the house but he already has people living in it.

Deputy Sergeant Donald Ellis stated in his report the manager initially listed the home on the Real Estate web site Zillow for $800 a month, and he has since rented the home. However, he has continued to receive inquires about the property.

Those inquiries, continued the manager, mention that the rent for the place is $400 per month.

As it turns out, noted Sgt. Ellis, someone copied his ad on the Zillow site and placed it on the site housesforrent.ws and listed a phone number of 508-556-4662.

The manager reportedly told Sgt. Ellis he’s called that number but no one will answer. They will, however, respond by text message and ask that a deposit be sent.

“He supplied me with a printout of the information he located on the web site. He also said he has tried several times, with negative results, to have the ad taken down,” noted Sgt. Ellis.

So far, the landlord has suffered no monetary loss.

But, that’s not the case for the 22-year-old man who tried to rent the home.

OCSO Deputy Ronnie Baker took that man’s complaint on March 29 after he had already sent $1,350 to cover the first and last months rent, and the security deposit.

The man reportedly told Deputy Baker he had been dealing with a person known as Quantilya Florence Mellerson via text message to the number of 508-556-4662. That number just happens to be the same number for the housesforrent.ws site.

The victim, continued Deputy Baker, kept trying to get the key to the residence but he was unable to reach the scammer.

Also, added the deputy, the victim said he did receive some sort of a contract/lease agreement but it had not been signed by either party.

“(He) advised that since the transactions were made he went back to the residence in question and made contact with the residents occupying it. It was determined the residence was being lawfully rented by said occupants,” the deputy pointed out.

The deputy went on to state he is waiting for the victim to give him copies of the text messages and emails between the scammer and the victim.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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