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Friday, December 19, 2014

Key West Vacation Rental Scam

I received an email inquiry a couple of days ago from a lady who feared she may have been the victim of Craigslist vacation rental internet scam. She asked me about 1022 Packer Street in Key West, a property that I wrote about in my blog when it was for sale. I didn't know if the new owner was renting the house or not so I contacted the buyers agent to ask him to let the lady know if the owner is renting the property. The answer was no, the property is not being rented.

The lady then sent me a copy of the purported Transient Rental License for 1022 Packer Street. I copied it and added some red letter markings to help potential renters compare if they receive a similar license. The City of Key West has a very short list of very specific houses and condos that have a transient rental license. Most of those properties are located within two blocks of Duval Street, but not all properties within that area have transient licenses.

Last week I received a phone call just as I was about to eat dinner. The lady who called started the conversation by saying "We're here." To which I responded who are you and where are you? She said 510 Frances Street to which I instinctively said I wrote about that property a few years ago when it was for sale. She asked when I would meet her at the property with the key. I repeated I wrote about the property in my blog. She then said I was the contact person on the internet. I assume she Googled the address and saw my name and number and assumed I was the person she sent money to when she rented the house. I told her again I had nothing to do with the rental. I waited a couple of minutes and then decided I better check the address.  Once I did that I knew the property and really doubted that it was a rental. But I did not know for a fact whether it was being rented or not. 

Shortly thereafter I got a phone call from a different phone number. This time a man was on the phone who asked about 510 Frances Street in a less strident tone. I told him I only wrote a blog about the house but did know what house it is. I told him I doubted it was being rented and said it could not be rented as a weekly rental.  I asked him the name of the company he rented the house from. He did not know. I suggested he find out and contact the property management company if in fact he rented the place from a real company.

Several agents in my office have had similar phone calls from people who show up expecting to check into homes they rented using Craigslist or VRBO. 

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ACTUAL SCAM WEBSITE.   Other scam addresses this company uses include 517 Margaret Street Key West, 1023 Packer Street Key West (note the license misidentifies the street address), 1409 Reynolds Street Key West, 2105 Dlophin Drive, Marathon.  I looked at the photos for a couple of the houses to see if they were of the actual houses. The photos for 510 Frances Street are actually photos of a Meadows Condominium on Pine Street or Petronia Street. Last Key Realty in Key West rents a 3 bedroom home there. Last Key Realty is a well known and legitimate company. The photos of 517 Margaret Street are actually photos of the interior of a ground level one bedroom apartment on Amelia Street and the pool is of a "cocktail pool" on Virginia Street.

If you want to have a great vacation in Key West, rent your house from a licensed real estate company or property management company. Don't be a victim.


FloridaAG said...

We know people who live on Olivia (really cute house) - who have a sign posted on the front that the house is not a vacation rental, if they have rented it they are the victim of a scam and the number of the police to call to report it. Apparently, this had happened to them frequently.

Anonymous said...

Does the City of Key West have a searchable database for active transient licenses? I couldn't find one but am hoping one exists.

Gary Thomas said...

Does the City of Key West have a searchable database for active transient licenses? NO! But it should.

Call Carolyn Walker who is the responsible Key West city official that issues all license. Her phone number is 305-809-3957. Email is

Craig Sucharda said...

Criminal has become deadly:


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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.