A crop of Florida homeowners have fallen for one of the oldest real estate scams in the book: the bait and switch. Phony real estate agent and Dundee, Fla. resident Paul Vencatasawmy certainly looked and dressed the part. He held open houses at several homes, and courted clients at his local church and community, according to court papers obtained by WFTV.
“He looked to be a nice guy,” said Rupert Walker, a homeowner who didn’t balk when Vencatasawmy asked him for a down payment upfront. “That’s the reason I fell in the trap.”
Walker wasn’t alone. Investigators say Vencatasawmy duped potential homebuyers in central Florida out of $250,000. What they thought were homes for sale were actually foreclosed or vacant at the time.
Vencatasawmy’s scheme mirrors tactics used by phony foreclosure rescue firms that seized on the pool of underwater homeowners in the wake of the housing crisis. By asking for fees upfront, he was able to pocket the cash and skip town before the buyers even asked for a key.
An ex-beauty queen from California was recently popped for allegedly duping homeowners out of $4,500 to have their home loans modified. Of course, the loans weren’t touched and the couple made off with the cash.
In the case of bogus real estate agents, it’s always in your best interest to verify their licence with your state before signing on any dotted lines.
If you’ve dealt with a real estate agent or foreclosure firm that seemed up to no good, alert the FTC or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).