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Posted by on Jun 7, 2012 in Fraud, Scams | 19 comments | Print Print


A reader sent this in – beware of vacant houses being re-occupied by the bad guys! 

Hi Jim,

My Uncle retired this year and moved out of his house in Long Beach, California to live in Palm Desert.

He put his home up for sale a few months ago.  My Father lives fairly close and checks on the home, along with the Realtor from time to time.

My Dad received a call this morning from the Realtor asking that they meet at the home.  When they arrived they found the For Sale sign gone along with the lock box.

They also found about 10 people living in the home.

The Realtor called law enforcement and there began a huge discussion on the front lawn, where the husband produced a lease, mentioning that he gave $7500 cash for first, last, and security deposit, etc.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about something like this happening; either these people are scammers, or they were scammed by a 3rd party.

To make a long story short, the police did not kick out these breaking and entering trespassers, and have told my Uncle that he needs to move to eviction proceedings.

Evidentially scammers have rights!?  It doesn’t sound right to me.

Any thoughts or guidance you can give Jim?

I don’t mind if you post this for others to learn from.

Thank you for the great blog,



JtR response:  The best thing to do is offer them cash-for-keys, and make it a large enough amount that they not only accept, but they leave immediately.

My free-renters in Oceanside that were suing Countrywide/BofA for the last four years just left with a $7,000 bounty.

In your case, if they have solid proof of handing over $7,500 to somebody posing as the landlord, then returning that, plus some extra, should be enough – maybe $9,000?

Why get them out immediately?  Damages and theft could hit five figures over a weekend.

If that solution is unbearable, then hire a lawyer who specializes in eviction law.  For those in the North SD County Court jurisdiction, call attorney Jim Burmeister, (760) 729-3052.


  1. A loaded shotgun pointed in their direction might get them out sooner.

    Seriously though, I don’t see how or why you need to evict trespassers.

  2. Those aren’t squatters, Chris.

    Those are the Capitalization Police and they’re looking for you.

  3. Sounds like it’s about time to tent the house and spray for bugs.

    After tenting consider changing the locks so larger bugs can’t get back in.

  4. You should never leave a home empty. I would think he could go to court and get an emergency order to get them out. Should be able to do it on an ex parte basis.

  5. Wow, $9,000 to get out trespassers, paid to the trespassers! That would be a tough pill to swallow for the homeowner.

    If you do have to leave a house vacant, sounds like a security system would be a good investment.

  6. I drive my truck into the living room, rather than be scammed by squatters.

  7. Jim – I think your advice is fair, reasonable and rational.

    For a passionate and irrational response..WOW! This is actually could be the best ‘Con’ I have ever heard of, because it can be played by any of the 3 parties successfully!!!

    The 3rd party (say a sketchy realtor who has access to the lock box / keys): Take down the sign, make a copy of the key, run an ad, collect the $ and give a bogus lease, give out the key, disappear! Easy Money!

    The Owner (have someone they know do it, not them personally): Same as above, and ‘bribe’ or evict. In your example, you collected 9K you give back 7K (2k profit). Not enough to retire, but not a bad way to make some cash while you are waiting for the market to rebound! What if you could pull this off a few times (could be suspect if someone caught on).

    The best would be the ‘Renter’. Tell everyone you were rented the property. You can make up a bogus lease, you can create a fake cashiers check money trail, you have ‘renters rights’ on your side, and you could probably get 30 or so days for free! This is a GREAT scam for collage students. Do this to a nice beach house 3 times during your summer break, and you’ve got yourself a great summer! Back to school in September!

  8. This country has become nothing but a denizen of scammers and thieves. When the law protects the criminals more than those with property rights, we’re doomed.

  9. PS: This is a reason to never, ever, put a lock box on your home. Ever. Never. It’s less convenient for your agent, but it’s your property and you can set the conditions on how it’s presented. I’ve done it that way on 4 occasions over the years (in both hot and cold markets) and the house sold just as quickly as those with lockboxes. You dump the “lookie loos” as an agent will do a far better job of qualifying people before they attempt to gain entrance.

    Open houses? Fugedaboutit.

  10. Breaking a window is probably an easier way to get in, then via lockbox. Us realtors can barely get those open!

    The problem is the advertising of a vacant house on every website on the planet. It probably makes a good case for staging the home for photos/videos.

  11. Getting into houses is easy. I taught myself to pick locks with $50 of supplies on the internet and reading a bunch of web pages. I can get most home door locks open in a couple of minutes.

    Locks only keep the honest people honest. Locks can’t protect you against true thieves.

  12. Being an “investor” renting homes sounds like easy money!

  13. There was a triplex next door to a property we had, that went into foreclosure, and a group of ghettonians moved into the front house, and rented the back units out.
    I talked to the guy in the front house, and figured out quickly he was lying about purchasing the house. I called the police and told them a group of homeless had moved in, and turned the place into a crack house. The police did nothing. They didn’t even show up.
    I called a couple of days later, asked to speak to a detective, told him the foreclosed property was now inhabited with a large group of drug dealers, and that I saw some preteen girls coming out of there at 2 in the morning. I also told them that I considered this an official declaration to that officer of the problem, and if it wasn’t taken care of, and any tenants in my adjacent property became a victim of a crime, we would sue the city.
    The police showed up in force later that day, and the occupants of the front house were jumping out windows and climbing the back fence to get away. The property was secured again, the “tenants” were told to vacate immediately, despite their protests that they had paid the ghettonians first and last months rent, and all was well again in River City.
    Sometimes you have to push and dramatize for the police to act, and in spite of “renter’s rights,” you can create the outcome you want much quicker than going through government-regulated nonsense.
    I don’t play an “honorable game” with people who are trying to blatantly rob me. I would never advocate paying off grifters. You’re only encouraging them to do it again.
    If nothing else, call the police every night, in the AM hours to report “suspicious behavior.” Do it every day. I guarantee after a week, the pressure will build between the police and your occupiers, and something in transpire your favor.
    Never cooperate with evil. Never.

  14. “ghettonians” – I LIKE that. Very Good.

    “Never cooperate with evil. Never.”
    – I LIKE this too.

    “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” – Al Capone (1899-1947)

    All but Six.

  15. You can usually find someone to house sit for free to keep it occupied without worrying about squatters.

  16. Sheesh…was the lessor on the lease in the name of the actual owner and “signed” by him? If not, they should be able to be evicted as trespassers.

    If so…what a scam…the scammer probably just looked up the name of the owner online in county parcel records (easy to do) and impersonated him or merely said he managed the property for the owner. Tossed his prepaid cel phone and skip town.

    This is the first time I’ve heard of this happening to a homeowner and not a bank.

    If the occupants of the house are the scammers themselves, I wouldn’t pay them a cent and get the cops on the case. If the occupants are victims of the scam too (ask for their rental history and see if they’re legit, as well as go to their bank with them to verify the $7500 withdrawal), you really don’t have much choice than to refund their money unless you want a huge court battle and property damage.

    The lesson here is, when you lease a private residence, always get plenty of ID and info from the guy who hands you the lease! Wouldn’t hurt to take a picture of him!

  17. LMAO — shadash, you’re killing me. 🙂

  18. Quite often the “Public Comments” on the MLS state that the home is empty, and that gets all over the intertoobs. Agents need to be very careful about those public comments…And this is happening all over california. Jim is right about how much damage can be done over a weekend, sometimes paying people off is the smart move.

  19. How much will the insurance pay off if the house suddenly burns to the ground?

    Did I just blurt that out? 🙂

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