OCPD Warns of Internet Rental Scams

Posted on June 8, 2010

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Thanks to the Ocean City Police Dept. for alerting folks to another pitfall in the wired world:

The Ocean City Police Department is reminding citizens to be cautious while using the internet to search for vacation rentals in Ocean City.  While popular websites can be a valuable tool in finding reasonable vacation rentals, consumers need to beware of scammers who are posing as property owners.

Some of the most consistent “red flags” associated with rental scams are demonstrated through poor grammar, spelling errors, poor capitalization and punctuation on any on-line material.  In addition, if a vacation rental owner does not accept credit cards as a form of payment, they should almost always accept a personal check.  Most scammers will only take cashiers checks or ask money to be wired to a specific account.  Lastly, you should be cautious of a property owner who is hesitant or unwilling to provide additional information in regards to the rental property, such as amenities or photographs.

As a renter you should take additional steps to assure the owner and rentals are legitimate. There are several tips you should remember to avoid being a victim of an online rental scam. First, do not wire money to a suspected landlord and remember, regardless how convincing the tale, make sure the person renting the house to you actually owns it.  Also, verify where you will go and who you will see to pick up the rental key.  Make sure that the person and location is valid.  Finally, if you have any suspicious concerns, follow your instinct.  Even if you have to pay a fee, you are often safer dealing with a licensed real estate agent.

Maryland On My Mind would add:

The best way to reserve a hotel room, condo, or rental apartment in Ocean City, Maryland, is usually to call the hotel directly. Or use the hotel’s own Web site. Most Ocean City hotels, and many apartment and condo renters, now have their own sites. The online rental services may promise you rock-bottom lowest prices, but nothing is free. If you see a price that looks almost too good, it might not be a top-notch hotel. You might be disappointed when you get there and see the room.

Those customer reviews you see on various sites may not present an accurate picture of the establishment. Many reviews are dominated by a few irate customers, and others are dominated by favorable comments encouraged by the proprietor.

The online rental services charge someone for their service, usually the hotel. Do your favorite hotel a favor and call them direct. By talking to a live person, you will get the most honest, accurate information, and the best available price.

Lastly, make an advance reservation. The idea that if you wait until the last minute, you may find a bargain price, might work for Christmas shopping. But it is a recipe for frustration on a busy weekend in OC. The rooms with the best views will not be available at the last minute. No rooms may be available at the best hotels. And some hotels actually increase their rates as they near full capacity.

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