Scam of the day – April 28, 2014 – Vacation home rental scams

With summer soon approaching, many people are making vacation plans.  Renting a home in a vacation destination is something that many people do.  There are many websites  such as VRBO and Homeaway that offer wonderful vacation homes.  Many people will also go to Craigslist and other similar sites.  These websites can be very easy and efficient ways to locate a great vacation home.   Unfortunately, they are also a great way for scam artists to steal money from unwary people looking for a vacation home.  The scam usually starts with a listing that looks very official and there is a good reason for that.  The listing is a real on line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information.  The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential renters.  The potential renters are often told that the owner is out of the country and that there are many people interested in the property so if the tenant wants to be considered for renting it, the tenant has to wire money to the landlord somewhere outside of the country.  As I have warned you many times, wiring money is a scammer’s first choice because it is all but impossible to retrieve once you have found out that you have been scammed.  Too often, unwary potential tenants wire the money and never hear anything further from the scam landlord.  And as for the money, it is gone forever.

TIPS

There are a number of red flags to look for in vacation home rental scams.  First, as always, if the price is too good to be true, it usually is just that – not true.  Also be wary of landlords who are out of the country.  Never send your payment by a wire transfer or a cashier’s check.  Use a credit card, PayPal or any other payment system with which you can retrieve your funds if the transaction is fraudulent.  It is usually best to deal with websites that specialize in vacation homes, but you must remember that they cannot possibly monitor every listing to ensure that it is legitimate.  You also can check out who really is the owner by going on line to the tax assessor’s office of the city or town where the property is located and look up who the real owner is.  If it doesn’t match the name of the person attempting to rent you the home, you should not go through with the rental.  Also Google the name of the owner with the word “scam” next to his or her name and see if anything comes up to make you concerned.

Scam of the day – March 24, 2014 – March Madness Scams

March Madness is in full swing and even though no one will be winning Warren Buffet’s billion dollar challenge to the person who predicted the winner of every game, the excitement around the country is high.  Of course, whenever excitement is high about anything, scam artists, the only criminals we call artists, are there ready to take advantage of heightened interest.  Many people are looking for   T- shirts and other apparel and souvenirs online.  Many websites are offering inferior, unlicensed products. Scammers are quite adept at manipulating search engines such as Google and Bing so that their phony websites turn up high in any search.  People are also anxious to buy tickets and are purchasing them online at places like Craigs list and other sites that are not official ticket vendors.  Unfortunately, many of these tickets are counterfeit.

TIPS

For merchandise purchases, stick to sporting goods websites that you know are legitimate and only pay by a credit card.  With a credit card, if the sale is a fraud, you can always stop payment of the charge.  As for tickets, Craigslist and many other websites do not confirm the legitimacy of the offers they carry.  Again, limit the places you consider to either the official NCAA website of www.ncaa.com/tickets or companies such as Stubhub, Ticketron or Ticketmaster and even with these legitimate companies, use a credit card for extra protection.

Scam of the day – June 27, 2012 – Phony charities on Craigslist

Advertisements for phony charities are starting to appear on Craigslist.  A particularly despicable one that was uncovered this week is for a phony charity asking for donations to help pay for the medical costs of a soldier wounded in Afghanistan.  The advertisement features the picture of Sean Fennerty, who was actually killed in Iraq in 2007.  The advertisement asks for donations and for people to share the advertisement on Twitter and Facebook along with a link to a website to make donations.  The family of the fallen soldier, as you can well imagine is quite upset to have their son used in this way by scammers.

TIP

This particular type of scam is quite new, but in many ways the attempt to appeal to our sympathy, generosity and patriotism is nothing new.  There are many phony charities and you should never give to a charity until you have checked it out to make sure that it is legitimate.  Even with “legitimate” charities, you may be interested to learn how much of what they collect actually goes toward their charitable purposes and how much for administrative expenses.   All of this you can learn by going to the free website www.charitynavigator.org.

Scam of the day – June 1, 2012 – Summer vacation scams

Memorial Day is often considered to mark the unofficial start of summer and many of us are looking forward to our summer vacations.  Scammers, however, it seem don’t take much time off and summer vacation time brings a new batch of scams.  Recently a local Bed and Breakfasts on Block Island, New York was the victim of a scam that is being repeated around the country and about which you should be aware.  The scam involved a phony ad on Craigslist.  The advertisement merely copied photographs and text from the real B and B’s website and put up the phony ad on Craigslist.

TIP

Merely because you see an ad on a legitimate website, such as Craigslist, does not mean that the advertisement is legitimate.  No vacation website is able to confirm the truthfulness of all of the people who list on the websites.  Before you send any money, make sure that you are sending funds to the real vacation home or hotel owners.  Always be wary of people who ask you to wire the money which is  typical way scammers obtain their funds.  Confirm the legitimacy of the advertisement with some investigation of your own including calling a telephone number for the home or hotel that you know is correct.

Scam of the day – April 26, 2012 – Latest Craigslist rental scam

Craigslist can provide an easy opportunity for someone to legitimately and economically do business.  Unfortunately, it also can provide an easy opportunity for scam artists.  The latest scam involving Craigslist around the country occcurs when a scammer takes the photograph of a home that is listed for sale on the Internet and then lists it on Craigslist for rent often using the name of the actual owner.    Often the scammers ask for the initial rent and security deposit wired to them before they will show the home.  That is a dead giveaway that you are dealing with a scammer.

TIP

Never buy anything on Craigslist from someone whom you cannot meet in person and never rent a home without actually touring the premises.  Never sign a lease, pay rent or a security deposit without actually inspecting the property both inside and out.  Finally, always be wary of someone who wants you to wire money to them because if the deal is a scam, it is pretty much impossible to recover your funds.

Scam of the day – March 21, 2012 – Rental listing scams

This is another tried and true scam that keeps cropping up.  Recently there were reports of phony apartment listings on Carigslist for New York City apartments and a California youth soccer team that was scammed when it thought it was renting a house in Palm Springs for their state tournament.  In both cases, the victims lost the money they sent to the scammers who had no connection with the real estate.  Sometimes scammers will hijack real rental listings and alter the advertisements.  Other times the scammers will create phony ads for property they do not own or for property that does not even exist.

TIP

Whenever possible, meet the person renting the property in person at the property.  Also, confirm through local real estate tax records that the person actually owns the real estate he or she is seeking to rent to you.  Always  be wary if you are asked to wire money because once it is wired, the money is gone.  Check with the Better Business Bureau, local attorney general or Federal Trade Commission to assist in confirming that the renter is not a scammer.

Scam of the day – March 14, 2012 – March Madness scams

As I have said many times, scammers are always resourceful and taking advantage of whatever has captured the public’s imagination.  Little has captured the public’s imagination more at this time of year than the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament.  Phony ticket and travel scams abound.

TIP

Although sites such as Craigslist may have listings for tickets, there is no screening process for someone to sell their tickets on Craigslist or similar sites.  Check with your local attorney general, the Better Business Bureau or the FTC about sellers to see if ticket sellers are legitimate.  Always pay by credit card, never a debit card or check so that if the sale is a fraud, you can get the money back form your credit card company.

Scam of the day – March 8, 2012 – Work at home scams

Work at home scams have been part of the arsenal of scammers for many years and with good reason.  They work – at least for the scammer.  Recently there has been an upsurge of work at home scams, many of which appear on line on sites such as Craigslist where you may find such scams listed seeking people to work in merchandising or processing.  The job is said to entail receiving packages or money orders and then repackaging them and sending them to another address, often in a foreign country.  You get paid by way of a certified check which you deposit, keep the amount that represents your fee and wire the remainder back.  The problem is, as I have indicated many times previously, the “certified” check you receive is a phony.  Some people who think they are prudent wait a few days for the check to clear before sending the requested money from their account only to learn when the check ultimately bounces that they only received provisional credit from their bank and once the check is found to be counterfeit, the full amount of the check funds are withdrawn from the account by the bank and you are left having sent your own money to the scammer.

TIP

These type of repackaging jobs are scams.  Don’t get involved.  Anytime you are given a certified check, contact the issuing bank to confirm it is legitimate and don’t consider the money yours until the check has fully cleared.