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Rip-Off Alert: Scammer used same rental property on multiple victims

A promise of free or discounted trips, phony rental listings or telling time-share sellers they've got a buyer lined up are some of the scams out there. (KSNV)

Sightseeing, sunbathing, skiing — Who doesn't like a good vacation?

But scammers are working hard to get a cut of your travel money.

The lure can be a promise of free or discounted trips, phony rental listings or telling time share sellers they've got a buyer lined up.

One victim says she was planning a vacation with friends in the Fort Walton, Florida, area when she realized the dates they chose were during spring break. Everything was booked.

“I went to Craigslist as a last resort, and sure enough, there was a listing,” she said.

She was thrilled because. The property was in the perfect location.

“He told me to go to the website to look — right on the beach, and we could have it for the four nights. Perfect,” she said.

She sent a deposit of $1,600 immediately to Coastline Realtors.

“He sent us back a written document, which was the contract about three pages’ worth of the do's the don'ts,” she said.

A few days before their expected arrival, she called asking where to pick up the keys. No answer. Then she got an email.

“Unfortunately, he overbooked the condo. He would be refunding our deposit,” she said.

But no money ever returned.

“I am beyond angry, you know, for ruining our plans,” she said.

Investigators say Michael Carleton had scammed more than 100 people out of money and their vacations with losses over $200,000.

Inspectors say research is key. In fact, many poor reviews had been written about Carleton on internet travel sites.

“Google the company that's doing the rental, Google the address, Google the property manager's name, you know, just try several different variations just to see what you find out,” advise U.S. postal inspectors.

Carleton was charged with mail fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison. He also agreed to pay more than $136,000 in restitution.

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