LEE COUNTY, Fla. – The population in Southwest Florida is continuing to grow, and it appears to be in high demand causing prices for rental properties to rise.

Out-of-state residents are searching online for affordable housing in the area and a number of Lee County residents are trying to find affordable rental options. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office said scammers know how difficult it can be to find affordable housing.

Deputies said when searching for rental properties, be alert to ads listing a price significantly lower than similar properties. Renters also shouldn’t sign any documents before inspecting the property both inside and out. LCSO said renters have been scammed when trying to rent properties that don’t exist or are not for rent.

Officials with the sheriff’s office recommended verifying ownership using the Lee County Property Appraiser’s website. They said you should ensure you are dealing with the owner or an authorized representative.

Never wire money as a deposit or payment for the first and last month’s rent, especially without a signed and verified lease, LCSO said. Requests to wire money overseas or to send gift cards as a form of deposit should never be considered.

Deputies also said to not let your online property search end in identity theft. LCSO said renters shouldn’t share personal information without verifying the identity of the party that they are dealing with.

Investigators also said hackers can easily change contact…

Read more…