CHICAGO, June 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Americans planning their summer vacations need to be aware of con artists who use the Internet to lure consumers into summer rental scams. Con artists use the Internet to post fake rental opportunities for beach houses or mountain cabins only to steal money from unsuspecting consumers who wire money for security deposits. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is constantly receiving information about ongoing online frauds and alerting consumers through useful tips designed to protect their money.
"The last thing you want to hear is that the dream beach house or mountain cabin you rented for you and your family doesn't even exist, especially after you have already paid for the rent or the security deposit," said AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo. "You've worked hard all year –you deserve to spend a fun, relaxing vacation with your loved ones away from home. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is giving you some tools that will help you protect your money and enjoy your vacation."
Recognize the signs
- Fake ads – Con artists will lift a legitimate ad from Craigslist or another website, attract attention by adding a bargain-basement rental price, include a fake email address, and then ask prospective renters to wire money or send a prepaid debit card for a security deposit.
- The reel-in – With budget rates attached to a too-good-to-be-true listing, scammers try to get your money before you find out the property just doesn't exist.
- Too good to be true – In more advanced scams, scammers create entire websites 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 even currency exchange calculators.
- Use a reputable website, travel agency, or online broker to find your rental.
- Do your research: check that the person offering the rental is the actual owner, and verify that the address is real. You can use Google image search to see if the photos in the listing match the reality, and search for the actual address.
- Never wire money. Paying with PayPal or a credit card can offer some extra security.
- Beware of below-market rental offers. Con artists go after consumers tempted to quickly take advantage of a "great deal."
- Be wary when a property owner claims to be outside of the U.S.
- Try to get referrals from friends who might have some vacation properties they can recommend and are familiar with.
- Never respond to emails coffering vacation rentals to avoid common phishing schemes.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 877-908-3360.
You can also sign up to AARP's Fraud Watch Network and receive alerts about cons and scams going on in your own state. For additional information and resources, follow Terri Worman's and Sid Kirchheimer's AARP blogs on frauds, scams, and consumer protections.
SOURCE AARP Illinois