It sounded too good to be true: a riverside Bonita Springs rental home with a pool for $900 a month.
But Rachel Grill was ready to get out of her current Naples apartment. After a few days of talking with a man she thought owned the home, she met the real owner and realized she was being scammed.
While she didn't wire the man any money, she did fill out paperwork with personal information about her and her family.
"We weren't going to give them any money, but if he had signed a lease and scanned it and emailed it back, we would have sent him money," Grill said.
Scammers are constantly evolving, keeping local law enforcement officials busy filing reports for victims and trying to track down those who took advantage of them. But many times, there's little they can do.
Officials in both counties said they've seen six of the Better Business Bureau's Top Scams of 2012 locally. They are:
The grandparent scam, in which a grandparent receives a call from a scammer posing as a grandchild or other relative who is traveling abroad and gets in a bad situation. The caller requests money to be wired to them right away.
Mystery shopping scams, in which people believe they are working for a mystery shopping organization, but are actually out the money they've put up front. Some are even told to "evaluate" Western Union as they wire money to a random account.
Scams about overdue loans, in which a caller threatens legal action against the victim for not paying a loan that doesn't actually exist. Some victims feel so threatened that they pay the caller even when they don't remember owing the money.
Utility bill scams, in which a caller talks about a "new government program" that will pay a victim's utility bills. The victim provides personal information but it is really just a scheme to steal identities.
Fake Facebook and Twitter messages that are actually links containing a virus or malware. Usually it prompts the victim with something like, "What RU doing in this video?" or "Did you see what they're posting about U?"
Jamaican phone lottery scams, in which people believe they've won money but need to pay a fee to collect their winnings.
Several people in Collier County have been told they've won a lottery and just need to send the tax money to redeem the rest of their reward, said Lt. Chad Parker, who works in financial crimes for the Sheriff's Office.
"It's mostly over the phone through magicJack phone numbers," he said. "They're almost impossible to trace — they come from overseas. These are international cases."
Residents in both Collier and Lee counties have been getting calls from Jamaica, area code 876, with someone claiming they've won the lottery.
"That's our No. 1, really," said Beth Schell, a fraud specialist at the Lee County Sheriff's Office. "The majority of calls are from seniors, with scammers coming from Jamaica."
Legitimate lotteries do not require any money up front, Parker said.
"If you won, you won," Parker said.
It should also be a red flag if anyone sends you a check for a larger than anticipated amount and asks you to send a portion of it back, he said.
Schell said many scammers are friendly to seniors, trying to strike up a conversation or act interested in their personal lives as a ruse to get identifying information.
"Our poor seniors fall victim to this because they prey on the vulnerable ones that are lonely, their kids don't live in the area and they're socially isolated," she said. "They spend quite a bit of time grooming them and becoming their 'friends' and asking personal questions."
Some people don't act on their gut reaction that something's not right, she said.
"I have some seniors tell me even though they know they're being scammed, it's better than sitting there alone," Schell said.
Last week, Schell took one man who'd fallen victim to Jamaican scammers to the bank to change his accounts and helped him change his phone number.
"By Monday, they already had his new phone number and were trying to scam him again," she said.
Schell and Parker said to be cautious when giving personal information or money to a stranger.
"Look for the red flags," Schell said.
Grill, the woman who almost fell prey to a rental scam, said next time she'll be more cautious when giving out personal information.
"I'd want to meet them in person and shake their hand, at the very least," she said. "I knew it was too good to be true to begin with."
Both counties have a hotline for people to call if they suspect they're about to be victimized. In Lee County, the number is 239-477-1242 and in Collier, 239-252-CALL (2255).