With the beginning of spring, consumers start turning their attention to vacation time and rental properties.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the FBI receive numerous complaints from individuals who have fallen victim to scams involving rentals of apartments and houses, as well as online real estate postings. ConsumerAffairs.com hears from people who say they got burned, too.
Jewels of Cornville, AZ, tells us that her and her husband had got a vacation rental in San Diego, CA, on Craigslist from Jennifer P. G. "She told me the place was clean and the pictures showed a nice view of the bay. She told me that was the view from the living room in the apartment. So we paid 1800.00 in deposits to her."
Jewels says after a seven-hour drive, "we were appalled at what we saw. It was in the back of a hotel where there was garbage and huge rusted cargo crates right there next to the building. The steps going up to the condo were cracked and the railing was broke and there was a big drop down."
Ways consumers can protect themselves from rental schemes include:
Do not wire funds to people you do not know.
Check with your county recorder to learn who owns the property you're seeking to rent.
Call the property manager or association, if applicable, and ask about the landlord.
Ask the landlord for a rental application. It's a red flag if one is not available; most managed properties require an application.
Find out how much of a security deposit may be requested in your state. Scammers will often ask for extra money in the form of a deposit.At least one state -- New Jersey -- is taking action against those who promise but fail to deliver when it comes to vacations.