TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — Amy Goldberg thought she booked the perfect rental for her family reunion to Tybee Island, until she was out $750 and a place to stay.
“My heart is there, my family is there,” Amy said. “I have a great love, I’d love to go back and visit my family. And they put a damper in those plans.”
The Savannah native, who now lives in Florida, used Craigslist to find a place to stay, something she said she had success with in the past. Amy’s story is one not unfamiliar to the island.
Lt. Emery Randolph with the Tybee Island Police Department said they typically see an increase in fake listings around this time of year with the busy tourist season.
“Definitely avoid sites like Craigslist or anything that’s a little bit under the table,” Randolph said. “Turn towards your local rental companies that are well-established. The most reputable companies are going to use credit card payments through a secure portal and they’re never going to ask you to pay in cash, money order or Bitcoin.”
Rental industry experts say scammers tend to list properties for cheaper prices than verified agencies and will often use their photos and descriptions as well.
“We’ve had people show up for their vacations with the contract in hand from this nefarious person who has booked the property for them and we then have to search for a place for them to stay and the money that was spent is gone,” said Maria Lancaster, Director of Sales and Marketing for Tybee Vacation Rentals.
If you’re looking for a rental, Lancaster said to make sure the listing has a calendar of availability, search the address to make sure it’s not listed on another site and never give money to a supposed property manager through an online service.
Amy’s long-awaited trip is off the books now. But she said she checks Craigslist once every couple of days to flag scam postings to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“Anything over the internet that they want payment, don’t do it,” she said. “It’s a scam. There’s no way to chase this money.”
Lt. Randolph said if you come across a rental scam report it to the Tybee Island Police Department. From there, the report gets forwarded to the investigations unit. Randolph explained these cases can be difficult to solve on a local level, so it may need to be reported to the federal government.