Owners are not the only ones scammed!!!

All too often these days we read about how someone hacked into someone’s data base and now everyone’s information is available to anyone who has a computer or smart phone. Information with names, addresses and even sometimes credit cards are at risk. While in the Vacation Industry these are common bits of information added together tells a thief even more. Like when you won’t be home because you are taking a nice vacation!!!!!

Remember the story about how a Tampa family received a set of tickets, for the whole family, from a sweepstakes (that they didn’t remember subscribing to) to attend a local football game? When they arrived back home from the game, their house had been broken into and everything was either broken or stolen!!!! Professional Management and rental companies understand many of these concerns and constantly seek better and more secure ways to maintain our owners and guests files. Moving offices frequently or having a virtual one is NOT an effective way to protect you against these ever increasing scams!!!!!

Managers must be diligent in their daily practices and alert to hands on and/or computer scams. Take for instance, recently several companies (that alert each other of fraudulent scams) noted a soft spoken gentleman attempting to make a sizable reservation and provided several different credit cards for payment. He stated the cards belonged to each of the members of the party and he was to use them when making the reservations. He used 3 or 4 credit cards, changing only the last 4 numbers, until he got one approved - made the reservation and “paid it in full”. He let the reservation stand for 24 to 48 hours and called back with an emergency. He cancelled his reservation and asked for his money back, sometimes for up to 9 condos, with refund of approximately $16,000.00 dollars. NOTE: he is fishing for the correct numbers. When he finds one you will accept, he uses the same number except the last 4 digits change, he asks if you can send his refund via internet so he can divide among the “guests coming to vacation” and in the end, the Property Manager gets scammed out of the $16,000.00.

You just have to wonder the nerve some of these people have.

Here’s one to watch out for. Last year there was a woman that called and made a simple reservation for 2 weeks rental 90 days from arrival, she then ordered a credit card with the resorts name and address on it and had it delivered to the resort. She tells the resort she will be having some important mail delivered to their office and can they forward it to here as soon as it arrives. Of course the resort, being the service minded professionals they are, contact the woman and tell her she has mail and they forward the letter on to her. As strange as this may sound, She now had a credit card with the resort’s name and address on it for billing. She goes on line to a retailer like Best Buy and orders items such as computers, cameras, etc.. and has them delivered to the resort and of course the professional manager accepts the packages. She then cancels the reservation just before the date to pay the balance telling the desk manager a family member has passed away and to forward the packages to her. She even provides the C.C number she just bought the items with to charge her for the shipping. So …. The credit card has the resorts address on it, the packages were accepted by resort staff and the packages were forwarded to a fictitious address. Another example of why it is important to be diligent.

Here are some more examples for property managers that are on the job every day. More proof that we must be diligent and professional while handling another person’s retirement investment.

Checks, checks and more checks. Died with. MAKING YOUR OWN CHECKS!!!!!!! Yes, banks are not concerned who wrote the check or who it is made out to, only that the routing numbers are correct for the account. These numbers are available on every check you write. With scanners and computers using photo cropping or other altering programs, managers must always be on the lookout for fraud.

Even one of the oldest scams continues to plague our industry, where the unit advertised does not exist or the scammer does not have the right to rent it. They will tell you “ I’ll send you the keys when I receive the full rental amount”. Of course when you arrive, you find that the key does not work on the unit lock or the unit just does not exist. We can go on and on.

So as you can see, even professional managers, in the local towns of your vacation investment must always be aware of the possible scams that hit each area with a vengeance and then move on. In Pinellas County, the members of the Vacation Rental Alliance/ Condo Alliance remain vigilant and communicate with our member partners to provide a safe and worry free vacation experience for our guests. As an Owner, you can rest assured that your investment will be protected from those who look to cause harm or fraud.

How important is it to have a local management or rental company?? It is imperative to have a local company that can monitor your rental and provide immediate response to any need. A company that has a long history in the community and has an actual office for check ins and outs. Virtual offices or offices out of town provide little peace of mind when an issue arises that needs immediate attention. Contracts with management companies are imperative so all parties know what is expected and what to expect from each other.

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