The Craigslist Vacation Rental Scam - How It Works
The scam advertises a vacation rental property and requires payment in advance (many times in the form of a money wire or a money order). After you make your payment, you show up to find that the address does not exist (or it is a home already occupied). In one town in Vermont, they have had five incidents in recent weeks following this exact story line. See Vermont Vacation Rental Scam.
The key to a scam like this is that the scammer must be very convincing on the phone and legitimately seem like a property owner simply trying to rent out their property. Imagine renting a home for a ski trip in Vermont only to arrive and find that there is not even a home at the address you were given.
How To Protect Yourself
It is unfortunate, but it appears that the only way to ultimately protect yourself is to only contract for a rental with a credit card. This may rule out getting the absolute best deals by dealing directly with property owners. The very best option is to book through a well known, reputable, vacation rental firm with a major credit card. One possible way to deal with a property owner directly would be to require that they accept your payment through Pay Pal. This would give you some avenue of recourse if you have been scammed.
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