Scammers Using Real Vacation Rental Info To Trick Victims Out Of Thousands

As people have gotten wiser to the obvious hallmarks of online scams, the scammers have had to step up their game in order to keep making a dishonest buck. And now that people begin thinking about their upcoming summer vacation rentals, these scammers are prepared with the latest in darned-close-to-realistic-but-still-fake realty listings.

According to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, realtors at the Jersey Shore (the actual place, not that walking puddle of self-tan lotion on MTV) say they are seeing a new level of sophistication in the ads that scam artists place on Craigslist and other sites.

From the Inquirer:

Scammers apparently have been able to hack into legitimate real estate databases, find properties listed for rent or sale, and obtain confidential details about the owners.

To make their bogus postings look legitimate, the scam artists use the hacked information — including photos of the houses and the names of the property owners – to direct their targets to phony e-mail addresses…

The scammers further entice victims by offering the properties for less than half the going rate.

But the key indicator that these are a scam is that you are often required to wire money to the “rental agent” before picking up your keys at the office (where they will just stare at you wondering what the heck you’re talking about).

And yet, several people have already been taken by this scam for “deposits” of anywhere from $800 to $1,000 that ended up in Nigerian bank accounts.

So even if someone is using the real name and number of a rental agency — and even if the photos and address of the property are legitimate — that doesn’t mean you aren’t being set up for a scam.

Shore renters being duped by Craigslist scammers []


Edit Your Comment

  1. AtlantaCPA says:

    I don’t care what the circumstances that lead you to that point, but once “wire money” comes into the conversation it’s obviously a scam. (I know, legit people can ask for wires too but c’mon how often does that happen). Credit cards or even checks (mailed to a logical US address) are at least somewhat safer.

    • FatLynn says:

      I’ve never heard of a legit use of a wire transfer to an individual you do not know personally.

      • AtlantaCPA says:

        I was going to say something like that at first but didn’t want someone to come back with “I rented a house once and they asked for a wire transfer and it was legit.” I’m with you – I think it’s safe to say wire transfer = scam.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        There are situations where wiring money to a business is the only option for payment on a past due account.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        The only times I’ve heard wire transfers being used, other than Nigerian scams, is in movies where criminals want money wired for a kidnapping/heist, to some account on an island somewhere.

      • jeni1122 says:

        Agreed. The only time I felt comfortable wiring money was to my family for emergencies.

  2. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    Why would people want to vacation at the real Jersey Shore, in Pennsylvania? To see the Amish?

  3. Cat says:

    Wha? Jersey? For a vacation?

    There’s a scam right there.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Well thanks to SteveDave, my Guido Safari startup business is a bust. :C

    • LMA says:

      Clearly you’ve never been below Wildwoods to Cape May. It’s beautiful there.

    • blueman says:

      Yet another person who has never been off of I-95 making a lame, cliched Jersey joke.

      Many parts of the Jersey Shore have beaches as beautiful as anywhere on the east coast.

    • savvy9999 says:

      I’m glad a large segment of the US population thinks this way. Stay the **** outta my Avalon.

      Shorter line at Springer’s too.

  4. FatLynn says:

    I have done legitimate rentals many times. If you can’t pay the deposit by credit card, it is a scam.

    Go through a known management agency, and you may be able to get a decent deal. If the rate is too good to be true, it is.

  5. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    As Will Smith once said, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

  6. WyomingGunAndHuntingEnthusiast says:

    I have been looking for a new house in the Cheyenne Wyoming area where I work and currently live and there seems to be a lot of scamming especially on craigslist. Rental prices on houses are very expensive here because it‚Äôs a military town, so on average a 3bd 2ba house is $1,200 for an old run down house or $1,500 for a newer house. The ads show the newer homes for a more affordable $1,000 – $1,300 I figure it‚Äôs a scam but you never know might just be a good deal. Turns out most of these people are on “mission is Nigeria”.

    I am trying to find a home with more space for my wife, the 3 kids, myself and the pets since we live in a townhouse that’s around 1,000sqft we could use 1,400 but can’t afford the $1,500 price tag. Our credit is shot since my wife’s divorce from her ex-husband and my job loss a few years back that made me behind on bills and auto repo. It’s sickening the scams people are doing during these tough times.

  7. some.nerd says:


    • GreatWhiteNorth says:


      I would like very much to rent the property from you. I would like very much to wire you the full amount of the rental, first last and security, but I find myself a little short of funds at the moment. I need to be able to open a bank account in order to have my structured settlement payments paid to me. Unfortunately, the type of account I need to open requires a very large initial deposit to open the account. I have not got that money at this time. However, when I get the account opened I should receive $122,543 as a lump deposit, more if it takes longer to open.

      So I ask you Sir would you be willing to wire me some money so that I intern can wire you the rental money and a respectable bonus for your kind help.


      Billy-Bob Tilson

      PS All my friends call me stumpy since the train accident that got me all that money.

  8. kella says:

    Perhaps Western Union and MoneyGram should ask, before sending a wire payment, “have you met this person before in real life?”. If not, give a strong warning that this may be a scam and remind them they can’t get the money back.

  9. Rick Sphinx says:

    Need to always be on guard. I was robbed in our villa on our honeymoon in St. Thomas (Megans Bay Resort). The resort recently changed all their doors to outwsinging doors.The first night, they have a party at the pool for all guests. Well, The latches were not covered with a plate. Hence, doors would be opened from the outside with a screwdriver. They said no-one entered the room with card key. I said, I know, I can open the door in a minute with screwsdriver. Police came, alot of arguments, and got no-where. I let my guard down stupidly, I admit it. Live and learn. 2 other people wre robbed also. I think all were in on it, resort and police. (afterward, we moved to a regular room, not a villa.

  10. bobloblaw says:

    i tried to find a rental in NOLA over the holidays, and EVERY SINGLE listing on CL was a fake. most, they posted addresses on real streets but the # didn’t exist. The prices were not unreasonably low, just on the lower end. im a web developer and internet marketer, and read Consumerist daily, and it wasnt 100% obvious even to me.

  11. Kman says:

    You give then too much credit, they aren’t ‘hacking’ anything. They just go to a legit listing, cut and paste the info into Craigslist and tell you to wire the money to nigeria for some bs reason. They also do this same scam with regular (non-vacation) rentals. Just refuse to wire money anywhere and you will avoid 99% of the scams.