Beware of Vacation Rental Scams this Summer

Talk about getting taken to the cleaners: Imagine you spot a great summer rental property advertised online. Looks wonderful. The deal sounds too good to be true, but the owner tells you (via e-mail or even phone) that the fee is correct. You apply for the rent and send in the required upfront payment.

9DThen you head down there for the first time to see an empty lot. It then dawns on you that the owner was really a crook who used some photo he found online and advertised it for rent. And if losing your money isn’t bad enough, the thief now has other private information on you like your Social Security number.

How can you protect yourself if the property is too far away to check out in person? Limit yourself to only local rental properties that you can actually physically check out first? Whether or not you can do that, here are safeguards:

  • Copy and paste the rental description into a search engine. If it shows up elsewhere consider it a scam. However…a smart crook will alter the wording so that this doesn’t happen!
  • Google the listed address and see if it matches up. Google any other information connected with the ad, such as the landlord’s name.
  • If you locate the property on another site that lists it for sale, the rental ad is a scam.
  • Request a copy of the owner’s driver’s license to verify property records at your county assessor’s office.
  • If you can’t physically visit the property, use an online map to get a full view, including aerial, to make sure it actually exists. But this doesn’t rule out scam. The property may exist alright, but the ad you’re interested in was not placed by the owner, who’s either not renting at all or might be selling the place.
  • Conduct all communication by phone.
  • Never wire transfer an upfront payment or pay via prepaid debit card—two red flags for a scam. Pay via credit card.

Honest landlords can be scammed, too. They should search the information of responders to their ads to see what comes up.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing  identity theft prevention.

Attorney General Leads Senior Anti-Crime University

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” was written in a poem as part of a declaration that we, in the United States, protect those who need protecting. It’s an unfortunate statement about society that the weakest are often the most vulnerable, as opposed to the most protected. Even today, the elderly are often targeted by ruthless and heartless criminals who have no remorse.

“Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard leads a team of experts in consumer scams, investment fraud, personal safety, elder abuse, financial exploitation and other issues affecting seniors. The Senior Anti-Crime Universities are designed to teach attendees to detect fraud and other consumer abuse commonly perpetrated against seniors. Each university offers a half day of classes in consumer fraud and scams, identity theft, life care planning/health care directives, Medicare/Medicaid fraud, financial exploitation, elder abuse and neglect, Internet safety and charitable giving. Learn more about the anti-crime universities from Goddard in his video message available at

20 years ago I was walking on the side of the highway because my vehicle broke down. A man in a car pulled over near me and asked if I needed a ride. I quickly accepted and got in. I don’t think I’d recommend doing that today, but that’s not the point of the story. After a minute in the car, I could see the man was handicapped, and only had one leg. I was moved by this mans generosity and going out of his way to help me. I asked “why did you pull over and pick me up?” he then responded, “sometimes people just need help.” A simple act of kindness like this had a profound effect on my life. I don’t think any other words have ever impacted me so much.

Protecting the elderly from various abuses and crimes begins with getting involved. Everyone knows someone who needs help in some way. Reach out. Get involved in your local senior community center. Look in your own neighborhoods and determine if there is someone that could use an extra pair of eyes to watch out for and over them. Get familiar with all the scams, crimes, and potential issues they may face. If there are people who need a home security system, call on your local dealer and do a charitable event where the community donates to help out those in need. Work with local law enforcement and become a local expert in crime prevention. Put on your own events and give your time to those who need help.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing becoming a home security on NBC Boston. Disclosures