An Orange County woman was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stealing more than $200,000 from people through a rental scam.
Irvine resident Surong Li, 29, was arrested on charges of grand theft, possession of a fake identification and theft by false pretense, according to an Irvine Police Department news release.
Li allegedly represented herself as a property manager and made lease agreements with victims for properties she did not represent, police said. Li faked the existence of some rental properties or never transferred money to the actual property owner, police said.
To avoid such scams, the Federal Trade Commission recommends taking precautions, such as:
- Search online for “complaint,” “review” or “scam” along with the name of the property owner or rental company to see what other people’s experiences are.
- Look at the property in person or do a virtual tour before you pay or sign. Ask for a business card issued by the rental company and check the rental agent’s ID to make sure it matches records.
- Search county or city tax assessment websites if dealing with a private landlord. Make sure the landlord’s ID matches the records.
- After getting the rental price, consider if it’s much lower than the rest of the rents in the area.
- Never give financial or personal information to anyone who contacts you claiming to be working with the rental company or owner. Contact the owner or company with the contact information you have.
- Never pay with gift cards, cash, wire transfers or cryptocurrency. Anyone who asks for payment that way is most likely a scammer.
The California Department of Real Estate issued a statewide consumer alert last year after seeing a rise in identity theft scams. Scammers were taking information from current “for sale” listings and posting the residences for rent on other sites. Scammers also used homes that were previously for rent and made it look like they were back on the market.
Sometimes, scammers use the name of the rental company to get people to transfer rent, deposits and fees electronically. Other scams involved using fraudulent rental applications to get information such as driver’s license number, Social Security number and bank account numbers to steal identities.