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Local News

Vacation Rental Scams Are No Longer Just The Ski Season's Problem

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Vacation rental scams in the winter are not uncommon in Park City. But vacationers and homeowners now have to be wary of the summer months as well. Melissa Allison has more:

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2017 report states nearly 10,000 people reported being a victim of some form of real estate rental scam in the last year.

While vacation rental scams happen year round – it was typically only something Park City Police only saw during the winter months.

But that’s changing. Park City Police Captain Phil Kirk said they’ve already responded to a call from a group of travelers from Poland. They became suspicious when they arrived and the key wasn’t where the contact told them it would be.

“We do have a lot more of these during the winter time, ski season," Kirk said. "But this one happened on the 14th of June and some visitors from Poland came here to, they thought, with a rental for the summer and it turned out to be a total hoax and scam and they lost, unfortunately, their deposit money.”

The deposit was several thousands of dollars.

One red flag was that the group never spoke to the homeowner.

“People had been communicating with some fraud individual who was running a fraud online," Kirk said. "But there was nothing to do with the actual owner of the condo.”

Other red flags to watch for are below market rates, offering a 50 percent discount or renters are asked to send money via money order or wire it using Money Gram or Western Union.

I’m Melissa Allison, KPCW News.

USA.gov posted the following information to protect yourself from vacation rental scams.

How to Protect Yourself

Be suspicious that the property or transaction could be a scam if:

  • The advertised price of the rental property is much lower than that of similar properties
  • Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, overuse of capital letters, or use uncommon spellings of words, like "favour" instead of "favor"
  • The person trying to rent you the property claims to be an agent for the property owner who is too busy, out of the country, or otherwise unavailable to handle the rental
  • The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property
  • The owner or agent isn't able to let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it
  • The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics, urging you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property
  • Learn how military families can avoid rental scams. (PDF, Download Adobe Reader)

Do

  • Learn the basics of how rental listing scams work.
  • Get everything about the terms of your rental including fees, rent, maintenance, condition, and improvements in writing and signed by both you and the owner/manager of the property as part of your lease.
  • Do a search on the owner, real estate management company, and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
  • Research national non-government real estate websites to see if an ad you are considering is listed in another city with duplicate pictures or wording that a scammer might have copied. 
  • Read information from the FBI about common rental scams.


Don’t

  • Don’t wire money as a deposit or payment of first and last month's rent. Wiring money is the same as giving cash; you can't get a refund, even if you find out the offer was a fraud.
  • Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Don’t pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a lease.
  • Don’t rent a property that you are unable to see before signing the agreement.
  • Don’t send money for a rental overseas.
  • Don’t give your personal information including financial information or your Social Security number, to anyone over the phone or over email without verifying their identity.