“It’s so easy to believe someone when they are telling you exactly what you want to hear.”
Sadly, it is human nature to discount obvious warning signs when it should be clear something is wrong but we desperately want to believe them to be legitimate. For instance, if you are looking for a retreat for your family to enjoy some time in the sun, in Scottsdale, in March, during spring training, at a decent price, with a heated pool, that is available – then you are a prime target for scammers – and you are likely to fall for it.
The fact is that most families book their Scottsdale vacations 6 – 12 months in advance. That means the best properties, the best deals and the best experiences are taken way before you even considered looking for them. You probably start out looking at HomeAway.com (same as VRBO,com), TripAdvisor.com (same as FlipKey.com) or AirBnb.com. However you quickly realize that all good spots are sold out and everything is prohibitively expensive. What do you do? Well, you check out Craigslist. Lo and behold, you find this one gorgeous property that actually is available, and the price is at least half decent. You proceed to inquired, get a good response – and it is of course available at your desired dates – and finally you pay the rental fee + booking fee + cleaning fee + refundable deposit = adding up to at least a couple of thousand dollars.
However you are in for a terrible experience. The reason you couldn’t find anything reasonable on the commercial vacation rental sites was that all properties were actually sold out and the property you found was “too good to be true” at a time when you desperately looked for it.
However you don’t yet realize what a roller coaster ride you are in for; You pay with your hard earned money, congratulate your family and friends to the upcoming experience, congratulate yourself to your cleverness, and you book your flight to Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. When you arrive in Arizona you do wonder why you haven’t received any information about how to enter the house or a million other things the homeowner should have provided you. You eventually arrive at the destination and you are looking forward to unwind, hang out by the pool with a Pina Colada and relax.
You first start getting alarmed when you cannot find any way to enter the house. Or even worse, someone opens the door and says they are 1) the homeowner and they don’t know who you are, or 2) there are other tenants there claiming they have rented the property already. Now you panic! You suddenly realize that all the warning signs you so conveniently ignored were real warning signs that should have alerted you to the fact you were dealing with a fraudster.
You are standing outside a house to which you have no right to enter. Your vacation is ruined, You feel abused, violated and cheated. You feel horrible.
Unfortunately you are the victim of vacation rental fraud. You didn’t listen to your internal warning alarms because you really, really wanted this to be a good deal.
So, what do you do?
Well, your options are limited; You can book a flight back home, you can book a local hotel, or you can possibly find somewhere to stay on Airbnb.com.
While it won’t help your immediate situation, you definitely need to go to the police. The strange thing is that even if the homeowner knows that someone has stolen their pictures, text, address and even name to complete the scam that got you, the homeowner is not considered the victim of a crime and cannot file a police report.
In our case we spoke with a very polite police woman at the Scottsdale police who told us that the victims of the fraud, i.e. the person who paid money to the scammer – that is you, has to submit the police report.
It doesn’t matter how wrong that may seem, at this time it is the reality. We are unable to fight this crime effectively. All we can do is trying to make it easy for you to find these warning signals and hope you trust them.
Craigslist is a heaven for scammers. Know that we do not advertise on Craigslist. If you see an ad for our Scottsdale home on Craigslist, it is not by us.