Planning your summer vacation? The Internet is a budget conscious planner's best friend, but watch out for these typical rental scams.
1. Craigslist cons
Budget basement prices attached to a too-good-to-be-true listing - scammers lift legitimate ads and ask for prepaid debit cards or a money wire to cover the security deposit. In addition to trying to get your cash, you may also be asked to provide your Social Security number and other details for a 'credit check'.
2. Only in your dreams
Fake listings for amazing places that are not real - all aimed at getting your money before you realize these rentals just don't exist.
3. Full service fraud
In more advanced scams, scammers create entire websites devoted to highlighting a variety of rental properties around the world at attractive prices. The sites come complete with detailed photos and descriptions of the properties, information on local attractions, renter testimonials, and currency exchange calculators.
What to do to avoid being scammed:
Use a reputable website, travel agency, or online broker to find your rental.
Do your research and check that the person offering the rental is the actual owner, and verify that the address is real. For example, use Google image search to see if the photos in the listing are actually duplicates, and search for the actual street address to see what comes up.
Never wire money. Paying with PayPal or a credit card can offer some extra security.
Beware of below-market rate rental offers. Understandably, consumers will be tempted to act quickly to take advantage of a "great" deal. Con artists depend on that.
Be wary when a property owner claims to be outside of the United States.
Try to get referrals from friends who might have some vacation properties they can recommend and are familiar with.
Never respond to an email offering vacation rentals to avoid common phishing schemes.
If you've been scammed, notify local law enforcement and the State Attorney General's Office.
You can sign up for the Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling 800-646-2283. By joining the Fraud Watch Network, you'll receive alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge.
File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office at www.atg.wa.gov.