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Renter Beware of Internet Fraud

Photo by B Rosen,Flickr

It’s not the first time we’ve heard of it and it won’t be the last. A family from Maine was bilked out of nearly two thousand dollars when they answered an internet ad for a vacation rental in Florida. Usually we hear of ads answered for local apartment or house rentals, but a scam is a scam. There are some things you can do, however, to protect yourself!

I’ve had conversations with local law enforcement officers over the past few years who give some common sense advice. Of course, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! If the price seems too reasonable, question it, or just stay away. One woman recently found that as she talked with the person renting the house, the deposit price kept going down. BIG red flag!

Any renter who insists you send them money before seeing the place is probably scamming you. If they want you to send money to an address that’s out of the country? Best to stay away. Or if the number you need to call is out of the country there’s a good chance the house is not up for rent.

The latest case was of a family who wanted to rent a vacation home in Florida for a week. This is a pretty common scam because you can’t just drive over to the location and see if there’s actually a rental house on the lot! But what you can do is call the local Chamber of Commerce and ask some questions. Usually they can tell you if there’s a rental home on that property or if it’s a vacant lot. They may also be able to give you some information about the people who say they have the property for rent.

The best advice if you’re renting locally is to only agree to talk money after you’ve seen the place. If they want money before you even walk in the door, run the other way! No reputable landlord is going to ask for a deposit before you’ve even seen the place. Finally, Sergeant Paul Edwards from the Bangor Police Department says if you do think you’ve found a scammer, hang up, don’t contact them again, but DO contact the police and report it! And as we always say, never ever give any personal financial information out over the phone, don’t send it to someone unless you KNOW it’s legitimate.

This doesn’t only apply to rentals, either. If you go on Craigslist to purchase some second-hand item, beware of anyone who says “send us the money and we’ll send you the item.” Pick it up yourself, with cash in hand. If they don’t agree to that, don’t buy it! Now I’ll be the first to admit, I love Craigslist for used items. That’s how I got my washer/dryer and my dishwasher. And I got great deals! But I bought them locally and paid for them when I picked them up. Oh yeah, and take someone with you because you never know what you’re walking into! Learn more on the PC World website.

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