Rental Listing Scams Explained by a NY Defense Attorney
Many travelers turn to online websites or to trade publications and classified ads to try to find rental properties or sublets. From rental homes or apartments to timeshare rentals, there are endless online postings that cater to travelers. While many of the online rentals are legitimate, the vacation rental and real estate rental markets can also provide opportunities for scams to occur.
Both the federal government and the New York State government may take action when consumers report that they were the victims of rental listing scams. If you are accused of being involved in a scam in any capacity, from making false posts to accepting money and not providing promised services, you could face serious criminal charges. You need to be prepared to respond aggressively and assertively if you are accused of wrongdoing. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC is here to provide you with legal representation as you fight against fraud charges.
Types of Vacation Rental Scams
The Federal Trade Commission warns of rental scams in both the real estate market and the vacation rental market. The primary types of rental scams identified by the FTC include:
- Scams in which legitimate rental listings are hijacked. The email address or other contact information are changed so that when a traveler clicks the ad they end up in contact with the scammer instead of the real property owner. In some cases, scams have even involved hacking into the emails or vacation rental accounts of legitimate posters of vacation rentals on popular websites.
- Phantom rentals: Ads are posted on popular websites or in classified ads for vacation rental properties despite the fact that the advertised rental properties do not actually exist.
Craigslist, Zillow, Vacation Rental By Owner, and a wide variety of other online sites may be used to perpetrate vacation rental scams. The scams sometimes involve getting people to fill out detailed applications, which contain personally identifying information like social security numbers and birthdays. This information can be sold or can be used to obtain credit cards and other financial accounts as part of an identity theft scam.
In other situations, the scams involve getting would-be renters to wire money or send checks. The money is taken, but when the renter actually tries to go and stay in the rental property, there is no property available or no access to it.
Penalties for Vacation Rental Scams
Penalties for vacation rental scams will vary depending upon the type of scam that was perpetrated. In many cases, defendants can expect to face charges for mail fraud if they accepted checks or applications through the postal service; or for wire fraud if they used the Internet to advertise their scam property.
If defendants obtained unauthorized access to emails or websites and hacked into accounts, defendants could also be charged with computer crimes as well. Mail fraud, wire fraud, identity fraud, and many computer crimes are federal offenses. Defendants could also face state or federal fraud charges.
There are lengthy prison sentences for defendants who have been accused of engaging in fraud, with state laws imposing ever-harsher penalties if higher amounts of money are improperly obtained through the scam. Defendants may also be required to make restitution to alleged victims of fraud offenses.
Getting Help from a NY Vacation Rental Scams Lawyer
Bukh Law Firm, PLLC understands the state and federal laws that apply to try to prevent rental listing scams. We know how prosecutors will work to try to bring charges against you, and what defenses may be effective at fighting those charges. We can also help you to negotiate a plea agreement if you don’t want to plead not guilty. Give us a call as soon as you have been accused of participation in vacation rental scams so we can start working on developing your plan for defense.