Tourism is in full swing. Unfortunately, the increased demand for rental properties is often associated with an increase in criminals taking advantage of unsuspecting victims. Given this tendency, Truckee PD is here to help you enjoy your stay without becoming the victim of a Vacation Rental Scam.
The Vacation Rental Scam generally begins by a suspect searching the internet for legitimate houses for rent or sale. The scammer then uses the photos of the home in the listing as well as the description to create a fake advertisement displaying the house as available to rent. These false ads are most commonly found on Craigslist.
Next, an unsuspecting victim searches the internet for the perfect vacation house but finds the fake ad. The victim contacts the alleged owner, reserves vacation rental dates, and deposits money directly into the suspect’s account. The victim then anticipates their upcoming ski vacation only to be disappointed upon finally arriving at the rental property. Upon arrival, the true homeowner is often very surprised, and the victim comes to the realization that they have been scammed.
The property is not for rent and the suspect, who has the victim’s money, is nowhere to be found. In the meantime, the victim is literally left out in the cold searching for a last minute place to stay in an attempt to salvage their hard earned vacation. In these types of scams, the victim typically loses between 1-2 thousand dollars.
Truckee PD takes these crimes seriously; however, the scammers often use Voice over IP (VoIP) phones or proxy servers for email correspondence from public places (often in foreign countries), making tracing the phone number or IP addresses and identifying the suspect nearly impossible. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is aware of, and is currently investigating these kinds of cases.
As a result, TPD encourages active prevention by being a vigilant consumer:
1. If you are looking for a place to rent, use reputable sources with verified business addresses, phone contacts, and employees.
2. If paying for a deposit, use a credit card that has fraud protection.
3. If the deal seems odd or unusual, find another property.
4. If you are a homeowner in a tourist area, check the internet to see if your property is fraudulently listed for rent.
5. If you locate a scam, report the fraud to the listing source (Craigslist, Zillow) and contact the Truckee Police Department or the Federal Trade Commission. You can make an online report directly to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.
Again, the Truckee Police Department is here to help you enjoy your stay in Truckee. Be safe, Be Vigilant, & Enjoy your time visiting Truckee!