Marco Island Police Department investigating reports of vacation property rental scams

Published: December 28, 2021 3:48 PM EST
Updated: December 28, 2021 6:16 PM EST

The Marco Island Police Department is investigating two separate reports of vacation property rental scams.

Two completely different reports, but a lot of the information is similar. Someone found a property online, sent money ranging from $800 to almost $3,000, and once they showed up at the property, they found out they had been scammed.

It is a scam that isn’t hard to fall for. You want a nice vacation, so you hop online to find a place to rent.

Dina Johnson, a realtor in Marco Island, said, “sometimes people are just excited, and they just don’t really think about how easy it is in this day and age to scam people.”

The property you think you’re renting may not be real, or if it is, the person you’re renting it from isn’t.

“If it looks too good to be true, you better take a hard look and make sure you’re dealing with the owner,” said Detective Sergeant Mark Huffor with the Marco Island Police Department.

Johnson said she’s heard of people falling victim to the rental scam. “When he got here, it turned out to be a scam. He had sent like a $4,000 deposit and the person actually didn’t own the property.”

Detective Sergeant Huffor said they’ve identified four vacation rental scams in a week. “I’ll look online and look to see if there’s any suspicious rental listings and try to contact the owner. I contacted the owners, who confirmed that they did not rent their property out.”

“Really all they have to do is find pictures of a property on the internet so readily available and just create their own post and if you don’t really check into it or it’s not an accredited management company or something, it’s very real that it can happen,” said Johnson.

The scams can be hard to investigate. “Sometimes our investigations will lead overseas and it’s very difficult to touch people that are out of the country,” said Huffor.

And if you want to get your money back, Huffor said, “the first thing they’re going to need to do to claim a credit would be to have a police report. So, we want to make sure that they have what they need in order to file a claim with whatever bank or entity that they made the deposit.”

To avoid falling victim to one of these scams, Hoffer and Johnson recommend you contact the management company for the listing to verify that the property is being rented, or you can call your realtor or a local realtor and ask them to verify the owners.