Beware of bogus vacation rentals when booking summer getaways

The summer rental season has really been extended this year due to the pandemic. There's been a huge influx of people rebooking now that they see things are opening, but with that influx of rebookings, there's also an influx of bogus ads.

The Troubleshooters found an ad for a 3-bedroom house in North Wildwood that is indeed a scam.

Diane Fegley made a home video to show off her lovely Wildwood home.

"It's a very cute little bungalow with a fenced-in yard," said Fegley.

Just one block from the beach, Fegley rents it for about $3,000 a week. But a scammer put it online for a weekly rate of just $900.

"I was really caught off guard. I was, you know, unaware that people were doing things like this," she said. "I had more than one person reach out to me and say you know like, 'Hey, this seems too good to be true. I am you know verifying that you're the owner of this property and are you, in fact, running it on Craigslist.'"

Fortunately, those consumers hadn't already given money to the scammer. But real estate agent Brian Reed said many others haven't been so lucky.

"We've had people get in their cars, fully packed for vacation," he said. "And they get to the house, only to realize that their dreams are shattered."

It turns out the people to whom they paid their hard-earned money were not the property's real owners. And they're out thousands of dollars for their family vacation.

"But there are things you can look for," said Reed.

Red flags include a rental rate that is unusually low.

"The person will never get on the phone with you and talk to you live. There's another red flag. You can't see the property, they don't give you the ability to see it," he said.

And remember that ad for a 3-bedroom house in North Wildwood?

"I couldn't believe it. We just bought the house in March," said owner Jennifer Chiarcossi.

Chiarcossi confirmed to Action News the rental ad is bogus.

"I was surprised someone would actually do something like that," she said.

Craigslist also offers advice on how to recognize a scam. Red flags also include the request that you wire payment via Western Union or MoneyGram or use an online escrow service. And be aware many of these scams originate from overseas.

Additional tips to minimize your risk of a scam:

  • Verify and call the owner directly
  • Pay with a credit card
  • No matter where you see a listing, do some cross-checking. Many legitimate owners place ads on multiple platforms, including Airbnb and Facebook, where you can see the person's profile picture and interactions with other consumers.
  • Be aware that law enforcement says many of these scams originate from overseas and the scammers often post many ads at once with typos and language or points that don't make sense.
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