South Lake Tahoe police: Beware vacation home rental scams on Craigslist |

South Lake Tahoe police: Beware vacation home rental scams on Craigslist

Amid reports of an ongoing rental scam on Craigslist, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department issued a warning to potential renters Wednesday cautioning them to look for specific signs when searching for a vacation rental home on the site.

In some cases, the fraudulent Craigslist listings include pictures and a lengthy description of a real home. The vacationers pay in advance, typically by check or Western Union wire.

The “landlord” takes receipt of the money. When the victim arrives at the vacation rental, they learn the home is occupied by permanent residents or already rented.

In an effort to avoid falling victim to the scam, the South Lake department suggests the following:

Use a credit card: Never use bank wires, certified checks, Western Union or any other service where the money is gone forever immediately after you send it. The credit card company has already performed basic background checks on the company charging your card.

Obtain full contact information and verify: Obtain full contact information for the person you are dealing with (name, address, phone number, email, etc.) and verify that information (by performing a Google search, etc.). Any real business should be easy to verify, as they will have a full website, be in the yellow pages and be easy to contact. However, if dealing with a person, ask for references, especially full work contact information, and verify that.

Your phone calls are answered: If they always have to call you back, then avoid. When they call, ask for a phone number where you can immediately call them back. If they don’t pick up the phone, watch out. Be aware that many scammers use message services (no one answers; you always need to leave a message). Also, Google any phone numbers. You should find your contact person associated with that number. If not, that may indicate the phone number is brand new.

Those who are a victim of a vacation rental scam should contact the South Lake Tahoe Police Department at 530-542-6100.

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