Tourism is hot for Florida’s economy and that has the Florida Attorney General’s office warning tourists to beware of fake rental listings. It’s a nationwide problem, but the Attorney General of Florida is leading the charge against fraudulent vacation rental scams and listings.
AG Ashley Moody has rolled out a Summer Scam Series this week starting with a consumer alert about vacation rental scams. You can watch Moody’s consumer protection launch on the AG’s YouTube channel. She said at her launch of the event that “Florida is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the nation. Scammers will take advantage of this by creating fake vacation rental listings in hopes of stealing personal information and money,” Moody said. And, “Whether you are traveling within the state or from out of state, make sure to take extra precautions when renting a vacation home to avoid being burned this summer vacation season.”
Consumers are on the lookout for a bargain when it comes to travel, making them an ideal target for fraud. And, Moody is working to help prevent Floridians and the millions of people that visit the state each year from being fooled by these seasonal types of scams.
General Moody points out several tips to avoid being scammed out of your next vacation:
• Check to see if photos of the rental property are affiliated with other listings by using a reverse image search;
• If something seems suspicious, ask for additional photos of the listing;
• Use a reputable rental website that offers protection in the event of fraud or offers payment transfer options;
• Make payments through a payment portal on the listing website to ensure money is held in escrow until keys are in hand;
• Do not rely solely on email to contact the landlord and be wary of listings with foreign telephone numbers;
• Check for reviews and, if possible, visit the property to ensure everything is up to par; and
• Pay for a rental with a credit card since it is easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also publicly warning those who are considering travel this Summer to to keep an eye on alerts, invest some time learning how to recognize vacation rental scams when they see a deal that is not quite right and to report it. Regulators are also utilizing social media to assist consumers in better recognizing the red flags.
Fake Vacation Listings Are A Big Problem
According to the Bureau, these scammers will often use popular online vacation rental websites to list non-existent properties or will hack into a legitimate property owner’s account and change the contact information. The scammers will then direct would-be renters to wire money or send a check for the rental amount, taxes and fees to an alternate account.
Once the scammers have your payment, they quickly disappear, leaving you without a vacation rental and out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The bottom line here is never wire money for anything vacation related. Separately, in an a press release this week FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta said, “We are asking everyone to exercise caution, especially over the next few months, as folks look to book last minute summer getaways.”
Frustrated travelers are increasingly common, and they’re having a harder time finding available accommodation. Much of it is due to overbooked hotel and resort rooms. Many individuals, on the other hand, have chosen to stay in vacation rentals; these come with several disadvantages, such as attempts by scammers to defraud you and those you know.
Knowledge of these schemes are the first step. Increasing consumer outreach is a must if these vacation scams are to be avoided. Knowing what to look for can help you avoid being taken advantage of by impostors who pretend to be landlords or property management firms. You can also inform others about the dangers of vacation rental scams and raise awareness among them by posting this story on other platforms.
If you have been the victim of a rental scam or have any information about someone engaged in this type of fraud, please contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online. You can also visit the the Finn Law Group website for more tips on avoiding vacation rental scams.
Have a safe summer!
This article is for informational purposes and is not intended to be taken as legal advice.
If you have any legal questions about travel or vacation related scams, please contact our office for a free consultation. Led by attorneys Michael D. Finn and J. Andrew Meyer with over 75 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm that specializes in timeshare and travel related consumer complaints. Follow us on Twitter to learn more about our Consumer Watch Team and what we are tracking in #ConsumerProtection