Fake Property Manager Arrested in $200K Rental Scam

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A Los Angeles resident was arrested last week for allegedly orchestrating a rental scam that netted her over $200,000 from unsuspecting victims, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Surong Li, 29, of Irvine, California, allegedly posed as a property manager and entered into lease agreements with renters for properties she did not legitimately represent. To carry out the scheme, Li either fabricated the existence of rental properties entirely or failed to transfer funds to the genuine property owners, according to law enforcement.

Li is facing multiple charges, including grand theft, possession of counterfeit identification, and theft by false pretense.

Related: Arizona Takes Action Against Fraudulent Rehab Centers Exploiting Vulnerable Communities

Unfortunately, such scams are not uncommon.

In June, Jonathan Daugherty, a realtor in Jacksonville, Florida, found duplicates of his properties on housing forums on sites like Craigslist and Facebook, News4Jax reported.

The fraudsters lured hopeful applicants and charged application fees and deposits up to $500, despite having no actual ties to the properties. Daugherty alerted the police and took necessary precautions, such as placing signs on the property to warn renters against engaging with random individuals, and that there is “only one way” to rent the property.

How to avoid a property scam

To safeguard against such scams, the Federal Trade Commission recommends several strategies including:

  • Inspecting properties in person or virtually
  • Verifying rental agents’ IDs
  • Checking tax assessment websites for private landlords
  • Staying cautious of unusually low rental prices
  • Refraining from sharing personal or financial information
  • Avoiding certain payment methods such as gift cards and cryptocurrency

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