The Town of Duck Police Department has been alerted to an online vacation rental scam in which residential rental properties, located in Duck, North Carolina, are advertised, but the person offering to rent the property is not the owner or authorized representative.
Online rental scams are a national problem and the Federal Trade Commission is actively investigating, along with local authorities throughout the country.
In the scam, a deposit or full payment is taken, either via a mailed check, wire money transfer, or through PayPal, even though the rental is not legitimate.
Many of the fraudulent online listings have been on Craig’s List, but no two are exactly alike. Some scammers are reproducing actual real estate listings with photographs and property descriptions.
The Town of Duck Police Department suggests consumers consider the following guidelines when booking vacation rentals:
• Use a major credit card for lodging transactions, as is customary around the world. Most, if not all, bona fide rental firms accept credit cards. Major credit card companies normally protect the consumer in the event of fraud.
• Never electronically transfer money to someone you haven’t met in person.
• Be extremely wary of property owners who say they are out of the country and ask you to send a check to another person or another town. This is almost always a clear indicator of a scam.
• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes a deep discount is a red flag that something is not right with the listing.
• The majority of the rental properties in Duck are represented by real estate firms licensed through the North Carolina Real Estate Commission. To verify a firm’s license, use the search function available on the Commission’s website: www.ncrec.gov.
• To ascertain the ownership of properties in Duck, use Dare County’s website: http://www.co.dare.nc.us/. Under the Public Information Files dropdown box located at the top center of the page, you can verify property owner information by name or address.
• If you fall prey to a scam, file a report with local law enforcement in the jurisdiction from which you conducted the business, as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
For questions, please contact the Duck Police Department at (252) 261-1112. For information on the Town of Duck, visit townofduck.com; become a fan on Facebook at “Town of Duck”; or sign up for Twitter updates at “DuckPR.”