7 On Your Side: How to foil summer rental fraud before it happens

Nina Pineda Image
Friday, April 21, 2017
7 On Your Side: How to foil summer rental fraud before it happens
Nina Pineda has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Prom, graduation, and family summer vacation; everyone's searching for that perfect affordable place to get away. But before your bargain goes bust, check out some tip offs to a rip off.

"I was shocked. I couldn't believe it." But there it was in living color, Louise Chelluk's lake-front home, hijacked and put up for rent by some stranger on Craigslist.

"He put my bedroom up once," said Louise. "That's when I really felt violated."

Not only did her photos, which she previously posted on a legit rental site, VRBO, get "on-line" lifted; the thief was pretending to be her asking for deposits.

The phony lease, adding another last name onto Louise's real name, was almost signed by Long Island bride-to-be Jen DeMartino.

She was looking for the perfect hot spot to host a pre-wedding party. Jen called her mom to help front the $2,100 deposit.

"She needed the money to wire to the owner of the home because it was 7 months in advance," said Dottie. Her mom, who we caught up with via Facetime in Florida, was a former bank fraud analyst and spotted several red flags.

One red flag, the person getting the deposit was different from the owner's listed and request to wire funds raised Dottie's suspicion.

Despite emailing the fraudster calling out his crime, Louise is livid, the listing keeps coming back on Craiglist.

"We have no idea how many times this house has been rented. We will be out there and people will show up with a lease and they will be angry and I don't blame them," says Louise.

Both parties in this attempted swindle had the same advice. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Some big takeaways here. First - before paying anything - check with a licensed real estate broker - to see if this listing is legit.

And insist on a tour of the rental property, inside and out.

And, if possible, meet the owner or broker in person. And we say it all the time - NEVER, ever wire money.

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