Sometimes, families arrive at the location only to discover that there is no vacation rental property available at all.
An official consumer notice has been issued by the Attorney General of Florida, Ashley Moody, alerting travellers across the country to be on the lookout for scams involving vacation rental properties this summer.
“One of the most well-known places to spend a summer vacation in the United States is Florida. Scammers will use this information to their advantage by generating bogus listings for vacation rentals in the hopes of stealing personal information as well as money. Whether you are visiting from inside the state or from another country, ensure that you take additional safety measures when renting a vacation home to reduce the risk of getting burned during the summer vacation season.” Moody stated.
Every year, millions of tourists make their way to Florida’s beaches, but unfortunately, the Sunshine State has a bad reputation for cons. Although Florida is often referred to as the “Scam Capital of the World” by those who specialise in cybersecurity, rental fraud has become more widespread across the United States. In July, the FBI’s Boston Division issued a warning to the American public regarding the proliferation of rental frauds.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that con artists are taking money through both short-term and long-term rental scams. According to data obtained by the FBI in 2021, 11,578 individuals reported losing a total of $350,328,166 as a result of these types of frauds. This represents a 64 percent increase from the previous year.
Del Amo issues a warning about the proliferation of holiday rental frauds on Facebook and Craigslist. In point of fact, some industry professionals believe that one out of every five listings for rentals found online is fraudulent.
“I’ve heard of a few times when a family was ready for a vacation and flew into Miami or Fort Lauderdale and then went to the actual property. They’ve even knocked on the door, and the owner has come out and said, “You know, I have no idea what’s going on here.” “Hiram Del Amo, who works in cybersecurity, said.
Del Amo says that there are a lot of vacation rental scams on Craigslist and Facebook. Some experts say that one out of every five online rental ads is a fake.
“I would say that somewhere between 20% and 25% are probably frauds.” Del Amo stated.
Those individuals and families that fell for these frauds lost thousands of dollars.
“At 3 a.m., we left Tennessee. We got to Panama City around 11:30 in the morning. I was about to send her a message on Facebook to let her know we were there, what we were driving, and where we were parked, but she blocked me.”
Katie Hall was in a hurry to find a new place for her husband, three young boys, and herself to live. The family found another place to live, but they never got their money back.
“We lost $1,425 for the condo itself, which was the original cost. Then we had to make other plans and arrangements. Like I said, we weren’t going back to Tennessee, so we had to find another hotel “Hall said.
Even though the number of scams is going up, there are ways to keep yourself safe. Here are a few tips from Florida’s AG:
-Know that it’s a big red flag if a listing makes you leave the online platform or website to pay;
-Use a reverse image search to see if any of the photos of the rental property are linked to other listings;
-If something about the listing seems odd, ask for more photos;
-Use a rental site with a good reputation that protects you from fraud and gives you options for how to send money;
-Pay through a payment portal on the listing website to make sure the money stays in escrow until you get the keys;
-Don’t rely on email alone to get in touch with the landlord, and be wary of ads with foreign phone numbers;
-Check reviews and, if you can, go to the property to make sure everything is fine;
-Use a credit card to pay for a rental because it’s easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
Users on both Facebook and Craigslist have been issued warnings about phishing schemes and provided with different prevention strategies. Both businesses have made it clear to their customers that they want them to report any questionable behaviour.