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This section of Craigslist is great for looking at pretty pictures of inviting vacation properties in Key West. However, sometimes it can be misused by unscrupulous people posting false listings for "crooked" properties for rent. Therefore, please be VERY CAUTIOUS about leasing via this website.
I've been using this website to find a vacation rental in Key West. Although there are legitimate listings on this site, unfortunately I've come across some "crooked" ones. On two occasions, I almost became a victim to a scam.
What scammers are doing is going to websites for vacation houses for rent or sale, e.g. VRBO. They copy the pictures of an attractive property and note the details, and then re-post on other sites pretending that they are renting "their" vacation house/condo. It's all a fraud!!! Many of these fraudsters are outside this country.
Therefore, I recommend one must be cautious and perform due diligence before making a financial commitment for a vacation rental. I trust Craigslist will support this post to counter this unwelcome activity on their site. My advice is:
1. Always VERIFY the solicitor posting the listing.
A) If it's an owner of the vacation property, ENSURE they are authentic by requesting a physical address, telephone number, and proof of ownership, e.g. a copy of the deed or a recent tax bill (they can blacken-out the irrelevant details). Do your research by visiting the website: www.monroecounty-fl.gov to obtain a legal description on the property. On this site, under "Links for Residents" click "Property Appraiser Record Search"; type in address under "Address Search" and then click "Search". You will obtain the legal County record on the property.
B) If it's a property manager or agent for the vacation property, REQUEST a physical address for business, telephone number, proof of relationship between owner and agent, e.g. contract (they can blacken-out the irrelevant details), and request a copy of the license (by law, the agent has to present a license upon request). You can confirm if this is a legitimate business by contacting the local Chamber of Commerce at show contact info
. You can also call the local Police Department at show contact info
if you are unsure or suspect a scam (website: www.cityofkeywest-fl.gov/departments).
2. Always CONFIRM that amenities in the listing are a reality and beware of any discrepancies. Visit the website Google Maps; type in the address, and convert to the Satellite Map. You will see if this property actually has a pool in the backyard, or if it's indeed 1 block to the beach, or a 1-story house does not have an elevator or fireplace, et cetera.
3. Do your RESEARCH before making a commitment. For information on internet criminal activity and helpful tips, please visit the FBI's website: www.ic3.gov/InternetCrimeSchemes. This site also has a provision to file a complaint in the event you're a victim of a fraud. Therefore, please retain all proof, e.g. e-mail message exchange, name of solicitor, e-mail address of solicitor, phone number, bank account number.
4. AVOID any financial transaction by bank transfer, wire receipt, Paypal, or cash. If imperative, put the minimal deposit down. Scrutinize and ensure a site is secure and reputable before giving your credit card details. The financial institution of the card may be able to help or interact since they have a vested interest in the transaction.
5. REMAIN CAUTIOUS even though the solicitor of the listing has a vacation travel-oriented e-mail address, a business logo, and the reservation confirmation appears professional.
6. ASK for the solicitor's telephone number. If they don't reveal it, then it could be a "crooked" house. If they reveal it, call and question him/her about the property (after doing your property search). If they fumble with answers, or become annoyed, this may be a "crooked" house. If the phone number is untraceable, this could be a "crooked" house (a legitimate business would have a traceable phone number). To protect others, please be a good citizen to "red flag" the listing by clicking "Prohibit".
7. USE YOUR GUT INSTINCT. If this listing is too good to be true, be cautious, e.g. a 1 BR luxury condo with ocean view listed at a below market rental price during peak season that is readily available for your selective time slot and will gladly accept your 3 children and 2 dogs as long as you send money via Paypal - this could a "Crooked" house!!!
In light of the above, I wish you much success finding a bona fide vacation rental in the great city of Key West.
A Concerned Citizen
do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers