Craigslist Scam

 

Craigslist$1000 / 5br – 4200ft – 5bd House Vacation Rental (Indio)

© craigslist – Map data © OpenStreetMap

Madison at 49

5BR / 4Ba 4200ft2 house available now
laundry on site attached garage
wheelchair accessible
cats are OK – purrr dogs are OK – wooof

My house has been rented by a scam artist as a vacation rental for BNP Paribus, Stagecoach, and Coachella. People who were duped out of more than $1,000 have been showing up at my door to move in for the week. They are sad to find out they were ripped off and now the group of 10 don’t have anywhere else to stay for the week. PLEASE WATCH OUT FOR THIS SCAM!

The police can’t do anything (so they say) and neither can Craigslist (so they say). The only thing we can do is daily go on Craigslist and flag for deletion all of the ads for our house. We can’t keep up. It is often listed 3 or 4 times per day.

Don’t ever WIRE someone money whom you haven’t talked to personally. Authorities told us it is most likely a cyber-crime committed outside of the U.S. and therefore unavoidable! Please don’t rent a house on Carefree Drive in Indio unless you check to see if it is also listed on VRBO.com. Then call the owner and talk.

  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers

post id: 4943054642

posted: 7 days ago

email to friend

♥ best of [?]

Please flag discriminatory housing ads Avoid scams, deal locally! DO NOT wire funds (e.g. Western Union), or buy/rent sight unseen

 

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The above was posted on Facebook this past week and I thought it would be a good topic for today’s blog post.  Unfortunately we see this, and similar scams, all the time.  Vacation Rentals of the Desert is a member of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association who keep us informed of the various methods used to scam both renters AND property owners.  These scams do a lot to hurt the professional vacation rental industry too.  It is sad.  One bad apple … as the saying goes.

I received an email from a business associate, Kelly, a few days after reading the above post on Facebook.  Apparently she personally knew the homeowner and was reaching out to me for advice.  Since the homeowner had already contacted both Craigslist and the police, my only concern was for her safety and peace of mind.  Looking at a bigger picture, as I am always apt to do, I recommended that she look into a security system and post a big note on the front door stating that the house has been involved in a scam and it is not a vacation rental; to contact the person who collected your money and do not disturb the owners occupying the property.

Picture this scenario … the vacation renters arrive at the front door only to find that there is no key under the mat or lock box on the front door … or wherever the “so-called owner” said the keys would be.  They ring the doorbell but there is no answer.  The guests, thinking they had paid for the property, take it upon themselves to call a locksmith or break a window to gain access … “after all, we paid for it.”   If the property owner cannot be at the house 24/7 … this is a very real possibility.  OR … a party of ten shows up at the house about 1:00 a.m. after the first day of Coachella Fest … ten people who have been partying hard all day long, wake you from a dead-sleep in the middle of the night!  Ugly.

This is not a happy situation for either the property owner or the renter, and it puts a black mark on vacation rentals as a whole.

If you are a vacation “renter” reading this post …. Please, please, please do not search for vacation rentals on Craigslist.  It is a very easy site for scammers to use … there is no accountability for either those who post or those who inquire.  This is why you will typically not find professional vacation rental companies on this site.  Red flags you should look for … wiring funds, lack of pictures, no live person to speak to, no reviews, and no protections offered by the posting site.  Craigslist is a free listing service.  Property owners pay to list their vacation home on VRBO, FlipKey and many other “by owner” sites.  Some of these sites will offer protection in the form of insurance.  This does not mean there are not scammers on these sites as well.  Always steer clear of wiring funds, always speak directly to the owner and always get the exact property address.  That being said … I really must encourage you to go through a professional company.  I am not being biased here!  Many scammers have charisma, they are very convincing salesmen and sound like someone you can trust … that’s what makes them successful scammers.  Some property listings do not have reviews because they are too new, or the property owner does not choose the site’s option to collect reviews.  And reviews are not always reliable.  I can go on VRBO and most “by owner” sites and give a great review to a property that I have not even seen, much less rented.  So reviews can be completely made up.  If you look up city records for the name of the property owner, the property may “legally” be in another name.  Many vacation homes have multiple owners, or property managers, or are in trusts or LLCs.  Since it’s “public record,” a good scammer will have looked up this information as well and have a prepared story.  References … scammer have friends who are scammers … they’d gladly put you in touch with a “renter” who would vouch for “their” property.  If you want peace of mind … go with a professional vacation management company.

On June 8, 2014 in my blog post titled “Girlfriend Retreat,” I shared the story of how I was appointed the official “property procurer” for a girl’s weekend.  Being in the vacation rental business, my friends figured that for me, it’d a no-brainer.  I started poking around the internet and quickly realized that there was no way in the world that I was going to rent through a “by owner” site.  Too risky.  Because I am in the profession I would have never even thought about going directly to a stranger … but I now found myself on the other side of that computer screen and the other side of that phone call.  How would I feel if we were scammed and not only I, but my friends lost their vacation money and found ourselves without a place to stay!   Before I got too far in my search I got lucky.  I work with a property owner who also had a home in Lake Arrowhead, exactly where we wanted to stay.  But just the thought of picking up the phone and trusting someone I did not know and knowing the number of scams out there … well I’m just not as trusting as I once was.

So finally I want to say … there are a lot of bad people out there.  I hope your property is never involved in a scam like the owner above.  Odds are in your favor that it won’t be.  If you are a renter I have only one thing to say … just go to a professional please.  Contact me!  I’d love to rent you a home in the desert … or go to discovervacationhomes.com (operated by the Vacation Rental Managers Association).  They have a list of reputable vacation rental companies on their website. You may pay just a little more for a professionally managed property… or maybe not, but I guarantee you’ll sleep better knowing that you and your vacation, are in trusted hands!

 

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Don’t be the Victim of a Scam!

shutterstock_158058749This week we received a call from a gentleman asking for our advice.  He explained that he had rented a property through one of the vacation rental “by owner” sites and was now afraid that he had been scammed.  He apparently spoke to the person who claimed to be the owner of the vacation rental who urged him to express mail a cashier’s check in the amount of $5,000 to secure the rental.  Now just weeks from his arrival date, all contact with the alleged property owner has ceased.  The phone number and email address that he used initially were no longer in service and unfortunately he had mailed the check to a post office box.

We advised this very unhappy gentleman to call the listing site’s support team for assistance, and we gave him the phone number.  We also suggested that he contact his bank to see if they could assist in recouping the money.

The sad fact is … this kind of thing happens all the time.  We typically get four or five of these calls every season.  Many of the scam victims will look for alternate accommodations, but for some, as in this case, their vacation money has been paid to the scammer and they are now forced to cancel their plans.   There are bad folks out there and over the phone they might sound like your very best friend.  Crooks often have great personalities … that’s what makes them successful.

There are many red flags you can watch for … the above scenario was full of them.    Not accepting credit cards or personal checks are big red flags.  Use of a post office box is another, and is pretty common with scammers.

Even though the vast majority of by owner listings are totally legitimate with honest, trustworthy owners … there are always going to be the few … just out to scam a buck from the unsuspecting.  I do not think the typical renter knows that by owner sites have no way of verifying that their clients actually own the property that they list.   Owners are not interviewed or required to show any proof of ownership, deeds or legal documentation.   It is an extremely easy process to list a property, upload pictures, and start taking reservations, once the alleged owner pays the annual listing fee … they’re in business.   It really is that easy!

The worst case I’ve seen was a few years ago when I received a call from a repeat guest.  She explained that she had won the lottery … Literally!  Won the lottery!   She and her husband decided to really do it up big at season and they went on line and found a crazy expensive, over-the-top, multi-million dollar property at one of the most exclusive communities in our area.  Two weeks before their arrival, after paying $40,000 plus, the phone number and email address of the “owner” was no longer working.  After contacting an attorney in the desert, property deeds were researched and they found that the house was not owned by the person who had listed the property as a vacation rental.  The legal owners were contacted and they had no knowledge of the person who had listed the property and had never offered the home as a vacation rental.  Apparently old photos from the original sales listing of the house were found on the internet, copied and used in the vacation rental ad.

This past May, I was in charge of putting together a girlfriend weekend.  Even with my experience in spotting a scammer, I was not about to gamble with my friend’s portion of the vacation money.  Luckily our company manages a property for a client who also has a vacation cabin in Lake Arrowhead.  If I did not have this contact I would have turned to a reputable vacation rental company.  I’m good at spotting a scam … but I’m not much of a gambler.

My advice … when spending your hard earned money … stick to the professionals.  If you don’t know who to use call the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Bureau in the area your are visiting and ask for a list of reputable vacation rental companies.

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