Family scammed on Craigslist after paying for rental home on Hil - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Family scammed on Craigslist after paying for rental home on Hilton Head Island

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) -

Imagine planning your dream vacation, only to get there and find out you've been scammed, and now you have nowhere to stay.

That is exactly what happened to one family trying to vacation on Hilton Head Island.

The family booked the house on Craiglist, and everything seemed legit, including the contract, the terms and conditions and the payment.

When the family arrived, the real rental guests were there.

Diane Matthews and her family were hoping to spend a relaxing week on Hilton Head Island.

"I planned a vacation that I thought was nice for the whole family, and I wanted everyone to just relax for a week, chill and have a really good time," she said.

After about a month of searching, her daughter Abby, suggested a house she found on Craigslist because she'd had luck there in the past.

"In college, we used it for just about anything," Abby Matthews said. "All the students used it to sell things, used to find roommates, find jobs."

Everything seemed right. They were corresponding with who they thought owned the property. The contract seemed real, and the correspondence seemed legitimate. They even paid through PayPal.

"I mean, everything seemed legit, from the ad itself, and then as he sent over the contract, he was more concerned about making sure all the paperwork was in line, not getting the money," Abby Matthews said.

They arrived at the house off of Singleton Beach Road on Saturday and dropped their stuff off so the cleaning people could finish, but when they got back from lunch, the real rental guests were there.

"I really kind of wanted to cry," said Diane Matthews. "I wasn't so much worried about the money, but I really did kind of want to cry for my children and my family because I felt like I had disappointed them."

The Matthews had been scammed, the property rental agency said. It would have been nearly impossible to tell just from the contract, because the documents looked so believable.

"Just through this one fake name of a person, and it seems completely legitimate, they probably downloaded something from someone else's website, and anyone can make anything appear to be completely normal," said Goode Vacation Rentals General Manager Nellie Adam.

Goode Vacation Rentals said nowadays, it's very hard to spot a scam, but there are some ways to protect yourself.

Do your research. Research the property, the actual owner and the rental agency. Even check review sites like trip advisor.

Double check on your reservation, and don't just communicate through email.

If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

"I know it takes a little bit of extra work, but when you're bringing your family here on vacation, the last think you want to do is think that you're checking into this beautiful home and then be out in the cold," said Adam.

Luckily for the Matthews, Goode Vacation Rentals was able to find them another place to stay, but they said they have definitely learned a lesson.

"It did work out for us," said Abby Matthews. "I'm probably not going to use Craigslist for this. This was kind of the last straw.

The Matthews said American Express is handling the situation. As for Craigslist, under the terms and conditions it says they are not liable for these types of situations.

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