We are now well into the summer vacation season, although my wife is a firm believer that the summer is just about over on July 4th. However, many of the rest of you who still believe there is time left in the summer may be considering renting a home in a vacation spot. Renting a home in a vacation destination, often the mountains or the ocean, is something that many people do. There are many excellent 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 quite legitimate and there is a good reason for that. The listing is often 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 sometimes 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.
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. A great and easy way to determine if the listing is a scam is to 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.