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Vail police warn of property rental scams

January 20, 2021, 10:42 am

The Vail Police Department on Tuesday issued the following press release on a growing number of property rental scams:

Officers with the Vail Police Department are reporting an uptick in both short and long-term rental and security deposit scams. Scammers are placing ads online and impersonating actual property owners by including photos of properties via legitimate rental or real estate websites, adding credibility.

Many of the scammers use a local phone number generated by web-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that are available to anyone online without any verification of identity required. Officers have taken several complaints initiated via a Craigslist ad which has resulted in prospective renters wiring money to scammers. Additionally, similar scams have been reported by tourists booking rental-by-owner properties, then arriving to find the real owner has no knowledge of the booking. The Vail Police Department is investigating several of these cases and is urging prospective renters to keep the following mind:

If in doubt, don’t send your hard-earned money until you are 100% sure the transaction isn’t fraudulent.

  • Scammers often target desperate people who need to find a place quickly.
  • Be cautious of a deal that seems too good to be true.
  • Locals should be cautious of sending the first month’s rent or a security deposit to anyone they haven’t met with in person. 
  • Many fraudulent transactions involve the scammer requesting payment via PayPal or Zelle, which are internet-based money transfer services. Only wire money to known, trusted recipients.
  • Scammers requesting payment via electronic funds or wire transfers, as opposed to known, trusted sources should be considered suspicious.
  • If you can’t meet in person, consider asking the landlord for a U.S. based address to send payment, and try to verify their identity and location.
  • Consult your bank and read the fine print about what protections are in place when sending money.
  • Many of the scammers are successful because they operate overseas, outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Victims who have spoken on the phone with scammers report that they speak with people with foreign accents. E-mail messages and ads often have misspelled words, and punctuation and grammar errors.
  • If you book a vacation rental online, only use reputable websites, and avoid requests to make the payment as a separate transaction outside of the rental website.

If you are a victim of an Internet-based scam, visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, or contact your local law enforcement agency. The Vail Police Department can be reached at 970-479-2201. 

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