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Our View: Warn your snowbird friends about this home rental scam

September 24, 2018

Imagine that you’re a winter visitor coming to Lake Havasu City to bask in the sunshine for a few months. You drive hundreds of miles to get to Havasu.

Finally, you pull into town and head over to the furnished home you rented for the winter. You paid several thousand dollars in advance for what looked like a nice place.

Cooling your heels, you wait in the driveway for the fella to bring you the house keys at the appointed time. You wait. And wait. You place a call to the man who rented it to you, but that phone number is no longer in service.

You become nauseated, realizing you’ve been bilked out of your $3,000 deposit -- or more in some cases. Even worse, you have nowhere to go. The winter rental market in Havasu is beyond tight. The prospect is slim to none that you’ll find another house to rent.

To keep this scenario from happening to anyone you may know, call them today (now is better) and instruct them to thoroughly confirm their rental arrangements. Online thieves are using Craigslist to rent homes they are not authorized to lease. The same is happening on VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).

Once the deal is sealed, the crooks literally take the money and run. Email addresses become undeliverable and phone numbers are shut off.

This unfortunate situation happened to three victims mentioned in a Page One story in Sunday’s edition. One is from Canada; two are from Wisconsin. The three lost $11,200 in the scheme. What’s unusual is that all three planned to rent the same Cabana Drive house, which continues to be falsely advertised on Craigslist.

Even more coincidentally, the two from Wisconsin are friends. When they compared notes on their winter-in-Havasu plans, they discovered they had rented the exact same house.

Seriously, we can’t make this stuff up. But rest assured, Lake Havasu City Police Department detectives are hot on the trail and the Better Business Bureau is monitoring the situation.

The fear is there are more people getting scammed. If you suspect a problem, call the police at 928-855-1171 or the BBB at 928-302-3701.

There were common threads in this newspaper’s rental scam report. All three victims were highly pressured to make a decision. The con man warned that other people were looking at the house, so they’d better decide quickly. Second, all three sent their money via wire transfers to different banks in Fountain Hills, Arizona. And third, all three had what they described as a funny feeling or suspicions about their transactions. They acted on their instincts, did more research and discovered they’d been duped.

The saving grace is that the three victims are safely still at home instead of sitting in a Havasu driveway waiting on a set of house keys that were never going to show up.

— Today’s News-Herald

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