South Lake Tahoe police are warning potential vacation home renters to take measures to avoid falling victim to an ongoing rental scam on Craigslist.
Rental listings may include photos and lengthy descriptions of a real house, and vacationers pay in advance, usually by check or Western Union wire. The supposed landlord receives the money, but when victims show up at the vacation rental, they find that the home is occupied by a permanent resident or that another renter is in the home, according to a Police Department news release.
In other cases, renters are asked to deposit money directly into a bank account, which subsequently is closed out, or they are asked to buy gift cards and provide the card numbers to the scammers, the news release said.
To help avoid becoming victims, police advise prospective renters to:
- Use a credit card: Never use bank wires, certified checks, Western Union or any other service in which money cannot be recovered after it is sent. Credit card companies have performed basic background checks on the company charging your credit card, according to police.
- Obtain full contact information and verify that information: Obtain full contact information for the person you are dealing with, including name, address, phone number and email address, and verify it by using a Google or other online search. A real business should be easy to verify as it will typically have a full website or Yellow Pages listing, the news release said. When dealing with a person, ask for references, especially full work contact information, and verify the contact information.
- Make sure your phone calls are answered: If you always have to call back or leave a message, avoid that person or business, police advise. When they call back, ask for a phone number where you can immediately call them back. If they don’t pick up the phone, be wary, as many scammers use message services. Police also advise people to search for the phone numbers on Google to see whether the contact person is associated with the number. If not, that may indicate the phone number is brand new.
Anyone who is victim of a vacation rental scam is advised to call the South Lake Tahoe Police Department at 530-542-6100.