Call it the ultimate summer bummer.
It happened several weeks ago to a good friend, a hard-working mom who was desperate for a mini-vacation after spending the past few months juggling homeschooling with everything else on her already full plate.
She was thrilled when she spotted a great deal on a vacation rental out of state, a place that wouldn’t require air travel to reach but was still far enough away to feel like a true getaway. She could practically feel her stress beginning to ebb as she scrolled through the photos of the place online.
It wasn’t until she went to pay the rental fee — and the hefty deposit — that the plan started to unravel. Uneasy about the fact that the person renting the property would accept only certain types of payment, my friend did some digging. It wasn’t long before she realized that the listing wasn’t real, and that she’d nearly become the latest victim of a popular scam that consistently fleeces would-be vacationers.
My friend, of course, was fortunate she didn’t get taken. But with the summer months upon us and plenty of people eager to finally get out and enjoy themselves again, there will undoubtedly be those who find themselves targeted by scam artists.
Some cons, of course, are more dangerous than others. Ever found yourself hustled out of $20 in a parking lot thanks to a person who said they needed exactly that amount for a locksmith after supposedly locking their keys in their car? I have. That lesson cost only $20 to learn, but others can be far more damaging.
Every year there are warnings where I live about fly-by-night driveway pavers, and contractors who will offer to do work for very reasonable prices then pocket the money and never finish the job.
These days, with the rise of websites like Craigslist and Fiverr, there are literally thousands and thousands of people offering goods and services people might need. I’m sure many of them are totally legitimate, but how do you pick the truly honorable freelance photographer or housepainter from the one who won’t deliver anything more than a migraine and a hit to your bank balance?
The truth is, you can’t always be 100 percent certain. You can, however, ask those you hire to provide references and documentation that they are running a legitimate business. You can make sure you see the property you are renting in person before turning over any funds, or at least check with a local real estate agent to make sure the listing is legit.
Finally, of course, you can trust your gut. If a deal looks too good to be true, it almost always is. Don’t ignore the little voice in your head telling you something just doesn’t seem right.
In the end, it might just save your summer — and your savings.