LEE COUNTY, Florida – Southwest Florida’s population continues to grow and appears to be in high demand, leading to higher rental property prices.

Out-of-state residents search 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 crooks know how difficult it can be to find affordable housing.

MPs said that when searching for rental properties, watch out for listings that are priced significantly lower than similar properties. Renters are also not required to sign any documents before inspecting the property inside and out. The LCSO has said tenants have been scammed when trying to rent properties that don’t exist or are not for rent.

Sheriff’s office officials recommended verifying the property using the Lee County Real Estate Appraiser website. They said you should make sure 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, the LCSO said. Requests to transfer money abroad or send gift cards as a form of deposit should never be considered.

MPs also said don’t let your online property search end in identity theft. The LCSO said tenants should not share personal information without verifying the identity of the party they are dealing with.

Investigators also said that hackers can easily change the contact details of an existing online ad, making it appear trustworthy.

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