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Families seeing scams as they look for vacation rentals on Tybee

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*(WTOC)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 4:13 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Finding rental properties on Tybee Island is few and far between right now as people make their vacation plans that they held off last year.

With this high demand, more and more families are reporting that they were scammed by fake rental property accounts. Renters are saying these scammers are offering extremely discounted properties and wide open booking availability, but legitimate rental companies on Tybee Island say getting a reservation right now would likely only happen if someone canceled.

“The scammers are looking for easy photos that they can pick off of the internet that are showing the interior and exterior of homes and they’re using that to repurpose onto sites like Craigslist and Facebook,” said Jenny Rutherford, a broker with the Jenny Rutherford Real Estate team.

Rutherford said these scams affect homeowners, renters, and brokers. She says some properties that are not even vacation rentals are being posted by scammers who steal photos from real estate websites.

“They’re going as far as looking up who the homeowner is on the property record cards and impersonating who the homeowner is to the potential renter,” Rutherford said.

But that’s not all, Rutherford says they’re taking it another step further.

“Now, they’re impersonating real estate brokers and reaching out to our own agents trying to run other scams.”

Charissa Murray is the marketing director for tybeeisland.com and runs a Tybee Facebook group, and she says some of these scammers are taking advantage of group members.

“It was five or six different profiles, but they all had a variation of the same name and they all had the same listings of where they worked so it was a whole ring trying to scam and they did. They got seven people,” Murray said.

Murray says she’s started to really watch her group and will post photos of the scam profiles to warn people.

“In the group right now, I think we have seven or eight different profile images just so people can recognize what a scam is.”

Rutherford says to check market rates in the area you’re vacationing. If the cost of a rental is significantly less, then it’s probably too good to be true.

“The mark downs that we’re seeing could be 50% of whatever the vacation rental would be for the week or even what’s crazy is as low as 10%. So, if it was $5,000 for the week the scammer might put it up for $500 for the week. This is not alarming to people that are coming and visiting from other markets where the cost of living is a lot less,” Rutherford said.

Murray and Rutherford both say the best way to avoid this kind of scam is to book through a real platform like AirBNB, VRBO or a vacation rental company. They also say these scams are probably going to pick back up again as summer gets into full swing.

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