MONTEREY, Calif. - Duped by scam artists -- we're finding out that some people are being taken advantage of, after they booked a vacation rental for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. We've told you before how it's buyer beware when shopping for something on Craigslist -- including a place to stay the night.
These folks are from the Bay Area and they didn't know what was going on, until they showed up to their supposed rental, only to find it wasn't legit. We sat down with a local property manager who ended up finding them a place to stay. She said checking for a real "for rent" sign is a good way to keep it from happening, but for out-of-towners it's a little trickier.
"You know if it's too good to be true, it probably is, is applicable here. And we see this in our office over and over unfortunately," Leasure said.
Property manager Jan Leasure said you have to keep your guard up when looking for rentals online. What seems like a good deal, could actually be an attempt to steal your money or even worse, you identity. She says the scammed renters came into her office today, looking for some help.
"Their instructions were to go to the property to pick up the keys and when they went to the property, they found out that the property is occupied by a long term tenant," Leasure said.
Leasure was able to find them something similar and even gave them a discount for all the trouble. The original rental was found on Craigslist, a two bedroom for $120 a night plus a $300 deposit. She said that's quite a bargain during a busy tourist week.
"So that should have been a little clue right there because that's a little bit low for what they thought they were getting," Leasure said.
We looked online to see how many ads I could find on Craigslist, advertised as specials for the golf tournament, and found more than 60, ranging anywhere from $150 to $500 a night. Leasure said if you choose to shop online, using a website like Vacation Rentals By Owner is more dependable because there's a fee to list the property, weeding out some of the scammers. But she said what's even worse, is when it happens to long term renters.
"They've paid some money, usually a security deposit and first months rent, which could amount to maybe a couple thousand dollars or more and they're expecting to come and pick up the keys and move in. Sometimes they even have a truck full of furniture," Leasure said.
The FBI has it's own Cyber Crimes Task Force, which works to protect people from internet fraud. Local police departments also have detective who work on fraud cases. One thing you can do to protect yourself, is ask for references.