As you know, we like to report on vacation rental scams that we come across because we believe the word needs to be spread. Scams are a huge problem for our industry. However, this time there is an unexpected twist.
Becky Ray of Parkville, MD, found a three-bedroom Ocean City condominium on Craigslist. She quickly contacted the person who had posted the ad and a woman identifying herself as Lisa contacted her. Lisa said she was the “agent for the rightful owner of the house,” and despite the short notice of just a few days, said the house was still available.
Becky thought she had hit the jackpot finding this condominium for only $150 a night. However, she was also aware of the red flags, i.e. the low cost being red flag number 1. The second red flag was the poor grammar and spelling in the emails she received from Lisa, and the fact that all the emails were received more often than not at odd hours.
Then came the third and final red flag – how to pay. Lisa asked Becky Ray to pay through Western Union, which is a wiring money service. Becky Ray says: “I knew it right then it was a scam because once you wire money, it is gone.”
Suspicious of the red flags, Ray began to search property records and found the real owner of the house, a woman fromVirginia. Ray learned the home wasn’t for rent and no one named Lisa was the real estate agent.
Ocean City police investigators said they believe some of the scams are coming from Jamaica and Nigeria, and no one has yet been arrested. “It’s very hard to catch people because a lot of these scammers are overseas. We can trace it and trace it and once it hits overseas, there’s not much we can do other than inform the public,” Ocean City police spokeswoman Jessica King said. An additional way to check if this is a scam is to ask to talk with the agent on the phone and it also allows police a local lead.
This is a case of when a vacation rental scam “goes right.” The tenant noticed the red flags and became suspicious, and was able to find out on her own that she was about to be the victim of a scam and was able to do something about it before being scammed. At Barefoot, provider of property management software, we enjoyed reading Becky Ray’s story as it shows us that the public are becoming more aware of the problem, and they start to notice the red flags. Hopefully, we will see more cases like this one in the future.