Live 5 Scambusters: Vacation rental scams popping up on Lowcountry beaches

VIDEO: Live 5 Scambusters: Vacation rental scams popping up on Lowcountry beaches

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Lowcountry is always a popular tourist spot, even during a pandemic, and scammers are using enticing offers to cash in on eager travelers.

Terry Neily had big plans this summer to bring her family down from Lake Hartwell to Folly Beach. She searched Craigslist and found the perfect spot. The 3-bedroom house was advertised as only “10 steps to the beach.”

Neily replied to the Craiglist post and started the booking process. When she got the rental agreement in her email, something felt off.

“It didn’t come across as a very professional document,” Neily said.

She did some more digging online and found the same house listed on VRBO. The pictures were the same and so was the description. The nightly rate on VRBO was $250 more than the listing on Craigslist.

“Then I went back to the VRBO listing and I looked at the calendar and it said it was booked the week I wanted it,” Neily said.

The scammer agreed to accept payment via PayPal but wanted Neily to use PayPal’s “Friends and Family” option. PayPal does not reimburse money through this option.

Neily continued her own investigation online and came across a Scambusters article from 2019 about fake rentals listed on Craigslist. She contacted Live 5 News and the property manager listed on VRBO and learned the truth.

“There’s no reason we would block off a Home Away calendar and date and then open it up on another site,” Dianne Ray of Surffish Realty said.

Surffish Realty manages the house Neily wanted to rent and others like it. Ray has noticed similar scams and added a warning to her posts online. She says it’s always best to go through reputable property sites like VRBO, AirBnB, or Home Away and book directly through the property manager.

“All the time and effort and energy it takes to pull together a family to come on vacation and then they got here and there wasn’t a home for them; that would break my heart,” Ray said.

“It’s so sad that people are preying on people who just want to have fun with their kids and go on vacation,” Neily said.

If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at Scams@live5news.com.

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