Florida AG targets vacation rental scams

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is targeting fake postings offering vacation rental properties as part of her office’s Summer Scam Series. The scammers take application fees and security deposits from victims for properties that they do not own and which are not for rent.

FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL Ashley Moody is targeting fake postings offering vacation rental properties. The state’s campaign against these specific scams plays into AAHOA’s call for more short-term rental regulation, the association said.

The scams involve fake postings offering vacation rental properties with requests for application fees or security deposits, according to Moody’s office. Victims of the scam pay the deposit, only to find the listing has disappeared and so has the deposit money. The would-be vacationers often show up at the property and find that the actual owners have no record or intention of renting.

“Florida is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the nation,” Moody said. “Scammers will take advantage of this by creating fake vacation rental listings in hopes of stealing personal information and money. Whether you are traveling within the state or from out of state, make sure to take extra precautions when renting a vacation home to avoid being burned this summer vacation season.”

Moody’s warnings, part of her Summer Scam Series, have ramifications for the entire industry, said Laura Lee Blake, AAHOA’s president and CEO, in a statement.

“Florida’s kickoff of the Summer Scam Series with a focus on fake vacation rental ads is a much-needed first step regarding short term rental regulation,” Blake said. “We must be aggressive when it comes to fake postings offering vacation rental properties and hold the scammers accountable. AAHOA commends Attorney General Moody’s crackdown and remains committed to protecting all of our valued tourists and visitors.”

Moody’s office provided these tips to avoid Florida vacation rental scams:

  • Listings requiring consumers to leave the online platform or website to pay is a red flag
  • Check to see if photos of the rental property are affiliated with other listings by using a reverse image search
  • If something seems suspicious, ask for additional photos of the listing
  • Use a reputable rental website that offers protection in the event of fraud or offers payment transfer options
  • Make payments through a payment portal on the listing website to ensure money is held in escrow until keys are in hand
  • Do not rely solely on email to contact the landlord and be wary of listings with foreign telephone numbers
  • Check for reviews and, if possible, visit the property to ensure everything is up to par
  • Pay for a rental with a credit card since it is easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.

In May, AAHOA endorsed another state’s initiative, proposed legislation in New Jersey that would strengthen protections for franchise businesses in the state, including hotels.

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