Southwest Florida Realtor Arrested After Vacation Rental Scam, Taking Nearly $20K From Victims

Three people that were looking to enjoy some sun in Southwest Florida during the winter didn't get what they were looking for – and instead were at the center of a vacation rental scam

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrested John Hayes, a realtor from Bonita Springs. According to NBC affiliate WBBH-TV, police say he got more than $20,000 dollars from the future tenants and then right before move-in day told them they could not move in.

“i should have gone with my gut,” said Judy Hocher, one of the victims. “Too good to be true."

Realtors say it’s common for companies to ask for the money up front, but it’s a matter of doing your homework and making sure that money is going to the right place.

Some tips on how to avoid being scammed include not to be fooled by photography, be careful of the cheapest properties, and never pay with cash.

Hocher said she spoke with a lawyer about getting her money back and was told he would have to be taken to court – but fees would likely be more than what the victims were scammed out of.

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