Online scammers are using real photos obtained from real estate or legitimate vacation rental listings to build complex fraudulent ads on Craigslist to lure in unsuspecting vacation home renters.
The victim typically sees the ad, which lists the rental home at a lower than average price and begins communicating with the scammer to reserve the rental. Communication usually occurs by e-mail, but phone calls have become more prevalent. Once an agreement is made the scammer asks that the money be wired to them. When the victim arrives at their rental home, they find the home occupied by the owner or a legitimate renter.
These scams are run by professional criminals who use technology to hide their identities and make tracking them down extremely difficult for law enforcement. In nearly every case the victim is unable to get back their lost funds.
Tips to avoid being scammed:
- Work with a reputable licensed vacation rental company.
- Ask for additional photos of something difficult for a scammer to obtain quickly. A legitimate owner or property manager can likely produce these with little difficulty, while a scammer is unlikely to have access to additional photos.
- Never agree to wire money or pay with prepaid gift cards.
- Pay for a rental with a credit card or through PayPal, which makes it easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of an ad call the Town of Duck Police at (252) 261-1112 and an officer will be happy to investigate.